Opposition presidential candidates are urged to shed the Philippines’ dependence on imported food, which has reportedly been compounded by the Duterte administration’s pro-import policy.
“Civil servants, especially at the national level, must meet the most basic need of Filipinos: food. However, most presidents remain silent on food self-sufficiency. The next president must reverse Duterte’s legacy of worse food importation and hunger, ”Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) National President Danilo Ramos said in a statement over the weekend.
“We expect a lot, especially from candidates who position themselves in opposition to the Duterte regime. Ending Duterte’s reign is not just about replacing the president’s name or his authoritarianism. Ending Duterte’s regime includes ending its imperfect economic policies subject to foreign and corporate interests, ”he added.
It was only at the beginning of the month that Vice-President Leni Robredo decided to run in the presidential elections of 2022.
Veteran union leader Leody De Guzman is also running for the post, running under the leadership of 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 well-known politicians considering the presidency are the Mayor of Manila Isko Moreno, Senator Manny Pacquiao and former Senator Bongbong Marcos.
Ramos pointed out that farmers suffered more severe economic displacement due to the policies of the current administration even before the pandemic.
“[President Rodrigo] Duterte favored importers and real estate moguls, leaving local food producers to fend for themselves. This regime institutionalized the unlimited importation of rice, accelerated land conversion, and chronically deprived agriculture of sufficient public funds, among other things, ”Ramos said.
He was referring to the Rice Pricing Law which was passed in 2018 and removed quantitative restrictions on imported rice, allowing unrestricted importation of rice into the country. KMP then cited the Land Reform Department (DAR) Administrative Order No. 1 of 2019, which accelerated the conversion of land for non-agricultural purposes from six months to one.
Earlier this year, in order to ensure the supply of rice and pork and stabilize their prices, President Duterte also issued Decrees 134 and 135 last May, lowering tariffs on rice and pork and increasing quotas. import for the latter.
For the same reasons, Agriculture Secretary William Dar also authorized the import of 60,000 tonnes of imported fish last August and is currently studying the possibility of lowering tariffs on corn.
“Instead of recalibrating and aggressively supporting local food production, neoliberal economists have doubled down on their failed policies during the pandemic and pushed for more and more imports,” Ramos said.
The Food and Balance Sheets published by the Philippine Statistics Authority last June found that 24.9%, or one in four, of the country’s food supply in 2020 came from imports. This is three points higher than the 21.56% in 2015, before the Duterte presidency.
“The increase in food imports is paving the way for an increase in food smuggling. All of this results in further loss of income for farmers, leading to decreased food production and increased hunger for every Filipino. Food self-sufficiency is in the best interests of the whole nation and the 2022 aspirants need to pay more attention to it, ”Ramos said.
A survey by the Social Weather Station (SWS) placed the country’s average hunger rate in 2020 at 21.1%.
Meanwhile, fishermen from the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) group have launched a campaign to boycott the imported galunggong that is expected to enter the country from this month. The import was authorized and initiated by the DA as part of the government’s overall efforts to control food prices.
As part of the campaign, PAMALAKAYA will launch an information campaign for consumers through regular market visits to identify imported fish from locally produced fish. This campaign would also call on consumers to patronize and support the local products of Filipino fishermen.
“Opening our gates to imported fish is causing serious damage to our struggling fishing industry. Its immediate impact would be felt by our local fishermen whose products would be supplanted by imported fish. This import measure resulting from liberalization policies should stop, ”said PAMALAKAYA spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo.
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