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Pushing for a larger budget for agriculture amid an impending food catastrophe

In order to confront the impending global food crisis, a party-list MP is asking for a larger budget for the farm industry under the next administration.

Rep. Argel Cabatbat of the Magsasaka Party-list said in a statement on Wednesday that with President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in charge of the Department of Agriculture, concerns about the impending food crisis and other factors affecting the availability of food could be addressed right away (DA).

“We were taken aback by the President-selection elect’s to lead the DA. However, it’s a welcome surprise. This implies that he is aware of a problem within the organization and that farmers require a quick assistance. Given the nation’s current food crisis, this is a positive development, according to Cabatbat.

To assist farmers and other workers deal with rising fertilizer prices, unabated oil price increases, climate change, and other losses resulting from the pandemic and natural catastrophes, according to Cabatbat, the government should allocate at least PHP400 billion to the agriculture industry.

Additionally, the proposed budget would provide fundamental infrastructure and support services while reducing labor-intensive farming practices, expensive production and marketing costs, and other costs.

In order to stop smuggling, corrupt agency behavior, and excessive importation, he claimed that the DA needs better managers with political will.

He asserted that the Philippines can attain food sovereignty provided the administration gives priority to policies that will benefit the nation’s farmers.

“As of right now, Marcos is the acting secretary of the DA,” I said. “Mas malaking pondo is what I’m talking about (I think our farmers would be given a bigger budget now that Marcos would serve as acting secretary of the DA). This, in my opinion, is like a general moving to the front lines. He’s putting himself in danger politically because, if he pushes through with it, he won’t have any allies, since he is himself, after all (because if this fails, he has no one to blame but himself). Cabatbat stated that he was accepting responsibility.

Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said it is a “wise decision” for the incoming administration to prioritize agriculture given that other global events like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, sky-high oil prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have made the country’s food supply problems, which are caused by low rural productivity and unchecked population growth, worse.

We applaud BBM’s choice to lead the DA when he assumes the presidency the next week since it makes it abundantly obvious that his upcoming administration would give agricultural modernisation and food security, if not self-sufficiency, the highest priority.

According to Villafuerte, given that 9.99 million Filipinos, or about a tenth of the country’s population, are employed in the agricultural sector and that Marcos ran on a platform of improving the lives of all Filipinos, it makes sense for Marcos to give agriculture first priority.

Without factoring in our farmers, he continued, “the new President cannot create the tide that will lift all boats.”

Villafuerte stated that the next administration might modify the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration in order to encourage agricultural modernisation by erecting food terminals across the nation with a concentration on the primary agricultural products in the various regions.

State-run food terminals are leading the way in all parts of the nation when it comes to value-added processing of agricultural products, according to the BBM government, he noted. The production, processing, marketing, and trading of each region’s key farm products would be the focus of at least one big food terminal that BBM could build.

William Dar, the outgoing agriculture secretary, voiced confidence in the new administration’s overall strategy under Marcos’ direction.

In light of the impending global food crisis, Dar claimed that Marcos’ choice to temporarily lead the DA suggests that he prioritizes national food security.

His determination to assume the reins is a convincing sign of this. In this moment of crisis, we are optimistic that this will herald an unparalleled “whole-of-government” movement for the urgent attainment of food sovereignty.

Dar stated that this has been the “political will” they have been promoting in the DA, particularly in light of the ongoing difficulties caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) epidemic.

We view this declaration as a win for the DA in mobilizing widespread public support for the sector’s restoration and empowerment, he added.

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