'Undo' Duterte's food import reliance

Published October 17, 2021, 7:30 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Opposition presidential aspirants are urged to undo the Philippines’ reliance on imported food, which was allegedly worsened by the pro-importation policy of the Duterte administration.

“Public servants especially at the national level must address the most basic need of Filipinos: food. Yet, most presidentiables remain silent on food self-sufficiency. The next president needs to reverse Duterte’s legacy of worse food importation and hunger,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) National Chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement over the weekend.

“We expect a lot especially from candidates posturing to be in opposition to the Duterte regime. Ending Duterte’s reign is not just a matter of replacing the president’s name nor its authoritarianism. Ending the Duterte regime includes ending its flawed economic policies subservient to foreign and corporate interests,” he added.

It was just early this month when Vice President Leni Robredo decided to run for president during the 2022 elections.

Veteran labor leader Leody De Guzman is also vying for the position, running under his party Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM). De Guzman is a known champion of labor rights in the Philippines and has always been critical of the current administration.

Other known politicians eyeing the presidency are Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and former Senator Bongbong Marcos.

Ramos stressed that farmers suffered worse economic displacement due to the current administration’s policies even before the pandemic.

“[President Rodrigo] Duterte favored importers and real estate tycoons, leaving local food producers to fend for themselves. This regime institutionalized unlimited rice importation, ramped-up land conversion, and chronically deprived agriculture of sufficient public funds, among others,” Ramos said.

He was referring to the Rice Tariffication Law which was passed in 2018 and removed the quantitative restrictions on imported rice, effectively allowing unlimited rice importation in the country. KMP then cited the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Administrative Order No. 1 of 2019, which hastened land conversion into non-agricultural uses from six months to just one.

Early this year, in order to ensure the supply of rice and pork and stabilize their prices, President Duterte also issued Executive Orders 134 and 135 last May, lowering tariffs on rice and pork and increasing import quotas for the latter.

For the same reasons, Agriculture Secretary William Dar also allowed the importation of 60,000 metric tons of imported fish last August, and is now studying the possibility of lowering tariffs on corn.

“Instead of recalibrating and aggressively supporting local food production, neoliberal economic managers doubled down on its failed policies during the pandemic and pushed for more and more imports,” Ramos said.

The Food and Balance Sheets released by the Philippine Statistics Authority last June revealed that 24.9 percent, or one out of four, of the country’s food supply in 2020 came from imports. This is three points higher than 2015’s 21.56 percent, before the Duterte presidency.

“Increasing food importation paves the way for increased food smuggling. All these lead to more income losses for farmers, leading to less food production and worse hunger for every Filipino. Food self-sufficiency is in the interest of the whole nation and 2022 aspirants must dedicate more attention to it,” Ramos said.

A Social Weather Station (SWS) survey placed the country’s average hunger rate in 2020 at 21.1 percent.

Meanwhile, fishers under the group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) have launched a campaign to boycott the imported galunggong that is expected to enter the country starting this month. The importation was allowed and initiated by the DA as part of the overall efforts of the government to tame food prices.

Photo from PAMALAKAYA

As part of the campaign, PAMALAKAYA will launch an information drive for consumers via regular market hopping to identify the imported fish from locally produced fish. This campaign would also call the consumers to patronize and support the local produce of Filipino fishers.

“Opening our floodgates for imported fish inflicts serious harm to our struggling fishing industry. Its immediate impact would be felt by our local fisherfolk whose products would be outcompeted by imported fish. This importation measure that stems from liberalization policies should stop,” PAMALAKAYA Spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo said.

 
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