Belmonte stresses need for local food security action plan

Published August 3, 2021, 12:49 PM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Planning a local food security action in every local government unit is important to ensure that no people will go hungry.

This was what Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte of one of the country’s largest cities learned during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

During a panel discussion held by the United Nations (UN) Philippines about impacts of the pandemic on food systems, Belmonte said that although “food security is central,” it seems “so ironic” because she cannot “think of any city” in the country that has a local food security plan.

“Local governments are really quite efficient. But I think what we do need from the United Nations and other actors, especially from international communities, is to help us with the capacity building. And I would really be grateful if the UN would help us do a local food security action plan,” the mayor said, adding that it is not only in preparation for further impacts of COVID-19 but also for other eventualities such as the “predicted dreaded earthquake,” typhoons, and other natural disasters.

“If there’s anything I learned from this COVID is this plan so that we can be very prepared. We have the foresight. We have the right budget. We know the long term effects to short term effects. And we can be prepared for all the eventualities,” she added.

As the lockdown imposed because of COVID-19 left many people jobless and hungry in the country, Belmonte said the local government learned to be “self-reliant” in terms of finding solutions to hunger. Among these included building at least 166 urban farms that have become the source of income of cooperative members as well as source of vegetables of the local government’s feeding programs.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte during UN Philippines’ discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and adaptive measures practiced in Metro Manila.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Kelly Bird said there is a need to focus on the agriculture industry to address issues on food security which also sometimes lead to “child abuse and other social problems” particularly in rural areas and “in very poor urban areas.”

Bird suggested looking for “innovative ways of delivering extension services to farmers” through the partnership of the national government and the private sector. There should also be “continuous skills development” in the industry, while reforms and competition must be brought in, Bird added.

Although the past administrations have come up with many ways to address food security problems including the feeding program, “much more can be done,” according to Bird.