Govt must ensure food ayuda during lockdown: Pangilinan

August 4, 2021

THE government must ensure that Filipinos will have food on the table during the lockdown period to keep them at home and out of risk of contracting Covid-19, Senator Francis Pangilinan said Wednesday.

“Nakikipagsapalaran ang mga tao at lumalabas ng bahay para magtrabaho o maghanap ng makakain dahil may mga pamilya silang umaasa sa kanila (People risk going out of their homes to work or find food because they have families to feed),” he said.

“Madalas, dahil walang kita pag lockdown wala ring pagkain para sa mga pamilya. Dito pinaka-kailangan ang gobyerno. (Often, food security evades many families following income loss due to the lockdown. This is where government intervention is needed most),” he stressed.

From August 6 to 20, Metro Manila will be placed under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the strictest quarantine classification, amid the spike in Covid-19 cases due to the more transmissible Delta variant.

Pangilinan said the promised cash aid and other assistance must reach the needy families on time to allow them to prepare and stock up on their requirements for two weeks.

“Maagap at sapat na tulong ang susi para matulungang makaraos ang mga tao habang nasa loob sila ng kanilang mga tahanan. Para sa maraming pamilya, mas malaki ang takot nila sa gutom kaysa sa takot sa coronavirus (Timely and adequate assistance are essential to help the people get by as they remain in their homes. For many of the families, the fear of coronavirus will never compare to the more acute daily threat of hunger,)” he said.

Filipinos are not only enduring a pandemic, but the country’s worst economic slowdown since 1947. The economy shrank 9.5% in 2020, and contracted 4.2% in the first quarter this year.  Food has become unaffordable, especially to those who lost their jobs or livelihood.

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed that 16.8 percent of Filipino families nationwide, or 4.8 million Filipino families, experienced hunger due to lack of food at least once in the previous three months.

Pangilinan said the government should be aiming for food security not just during the pandemic but for the long haul. He said policies and laws should be directed toward ensuring that food is available, accessible, and affordable to all segments of the population with or without a crisis.

Since becoming a senator, Pangilinan has pushed for legislation that would strengthen the agriculture sector to enable farmers and fisherfolk to produce food and products that would sustain the population and make their industry competitive.

Pangilinan is the principal author of Republic Act 11321 or Sagip Saka Act, which institutionalizes support for the country’s agricultural workers to help them make a decent living out of farming or fishing.

The law also allows all government entities to directly purchase agricultural and fisheries products from local farmer and fisherfolk enterprises, which Pangilinan said helped ensure the availability of food supply amid the pandemic.

Pangilinan also authored Republic Act 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act that paved the way for the return of the billions collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos regime.

He also helped steer the passage of Republic Act 11511 which amended the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 to make it more beneficial to organic farmers and consumers.

In the Senate, Pangilinan led in calling for an investigation on the African swine fever that nearly wiped out the local hog industry in some areas. He also took an active role in public hearings that discussed rising food prices.

He has also filed bills and resolutions for the preservation of the environment such as the Single-Use Plastics bill; National Land Use bill; Solid Waste Importation Ban bill; National Mangrove Forest Protection and Preservation bill; and inquiry into the flooding in Cagayan Valley and Isabela.