Ensure food supply for hungry Filipinos, Recto urges gov’t

Published January 29, 2021, 8:16 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

If the GDP report card is bad, the GNP is worse, President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Friday, referring to the number of Gutom na Pilipino (hungry Filipinos).

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto

With the current situation, Recto said that the government should focus on ensuring food supply in the Philippines to address the decline in the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Friday.

Recto, a former socioeconomic planning secretary, issued the call after the country recorded a 9.5 percent negative growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) for 2020, its worst economic performance since 1947.

“First, focus on food. If the GDP report card is bad, the GNP – the number of Gutom na Pilipino – is worse,” he said.

He further explained:

“Mahalaga ang pagkain (Food is important), because Filipino families on the average spend 43 percent of their income on food. But the bottom 30 percent, or about 7.42 million families, allot almost 60 percent of their income on food.”

“If the daily minimum wage won’t be enough to buy a pot of chicken tinola, then hunger becomes COVID’s deadliest side effect,” he pointed out.

Recto said there should be a review of the country’s farm-to-table chain to address problems in food supply.

“Every step, and not just focus on the narrative na ‘kasalanan ng middleman (it’s the middleman’s fault)’. Many of the problems are upstream – production for one, and not just on overpricing. When traders are paraded as the usual suspects, we may not be able to find the real solution. The green shoots of economic recovery must be seen in our farms,” he said.

The senator said the country should also take advantage of the good weather until June to boost the construction, agriculture, and domestic tourism.

“Government should turn the entire country into a beehive of construction this summer – a physically distant, protocol compliant outdoor activity that can employ many. Begin with health facilities. Build while the sun is up, before the rains come, and the typhoons do damage,” he said.

“Domestic tourism, too, provided protocols are in place for people who would like to take a leave from Netflix to safely enjoy the outdoors,” he also said.

Recto also reiterated the importance of the vaccination against COVID-19 in the economic recovery.

“Joblessness is a result of jab-lessness. Vaccination injects the people with immunity and it injects the economy with vitality,” he said.