Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said those behind the corruption in the Department of Agriculture (DA) were threatening, not just the country’s food security, but its national security, as well.
“There is nothing more basic than food, especially in a pandemic. If corruption infects the DA that should be at the forefront of food security efforts, it goes beyond human conscience,” Lacson said in an interview on Radio DZBB.
“Wala na. Saan pa tayo pupulutin kung ang mga walang kaluluwa walang konsensya pati pagkain ng ordinaryong Pilipino di papatawarin (Nothing. We have nowhere to go if people with no souls nor conscience will even corrupt the food of ordinary Filipinos),” the senator added.
“May kumita na sa PPEs, may kumita kung saan-saan, may kumita sa smuggling. Pati ba naman itong pagkain sa hapag-kainan, titirahin pa rin? (These people have profited from personal protective equipment, some profited from smuggling and elsewhere. Are they also going to hit on the people’s food?),” he lamented.
Lacson warned that if such corrupt practices persist—compounded by President Duterte’s Executive Order 128 that brings down tariff rates for imported pork products— this will make local hog raisers and those depending on them vulnerable to recruitment by the New People’s Army (NPA), adding to the country’s national security problem.
“It will be easy for the NPA to recruit new members, especially those who go hungry after losing their livelihood and blame government policies for their plight. This has given the NPA an opportunity to recruit,” he said.
The senator also questioned the DA’s seeming tendency to resort to importation to address dwindling food supply.
He pointed out DA officials did not even explore practical alternatives such as redistributing produce from areas where there is a surplus to those where there is a shortage.
“It came to the point that Senate President Vicente Sotto III and I were joking that the DA has become a Department of Importation because it seems all the solutions it can think of are centered on importation,” he pointed out.
“Instead of helping local hog and poultry raisers, why insist on importation as the solution? Is it because there is money to be made there?” the lawmaker said.
Lacson, during the Senate Committee of the Whole’s hearing on food security last week, warned that the country stood to lose P5.4 billion in foregone revenues with the signing of EO 128.
This amount, according to the senator, did not take into account questionable practices such as the possible mis-declaration, under-declaration or outright smuggling that caused the government to lose more than P1 billion a year in the importation of fish and seafood products from 2015 to 2020.