November 9, 2011
Speaking before Filipino and Chinese businessmen from the export and agricultural industries, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said on Tuesday that before the country can fully take advantage of export opportunities in China, it must first “be able to secure our own food needs, as well as the people and communities who provide for them.”
Pangilinan raised this point amid optimism that China’s growing population (over 1.3 billion people), booming economy, and declining resources for agriculture could pave the way for more Filipino companies to provide for the economic giant’s food needs. The lawmaker cited a news report that had said that, “In the next several years, China will be the world’s biggest importer of agriculture and agri-food products.”
He also pointed out, however, that the Philippines is still reeling from its own set of challenges related to food security.
“Our own population is growing, our farmers are aging, hunger is rising–4.3 million families as of September 2011–and we are currently under threat of a food crisis if we are not able to secure, first and foremost, the farmers and fisherfolk who comprise our manpower in the agricultural sector,” Pangilinan said.
“Before we can fully explore opportunities outside our own country, we must also be able to look at fulfilling the needs of our own countrymen.”
Pangilinan shared ongoing initiatives of the public-private consortium known as AF2025 (Agriculture & Fisheries 2025) and enjoined more private sector players to be involved in this advocacy. One of these programs is “Sagip Saka”, which the senator described as “an advocacy that aims to achieve sustainable modern agriculture and food security by transforming agricultural communities to reach their full potential, improving farmers’ and fishers’ quality of life, and bridging gaps through public-private partnerships.”
“Through ‘Sagip Saka’, we are able to act on our belief that empowering our farmers and agricultural workers will allow us to improve the profitability of agriculture while achieving domestic food security,” Pangilinan shared.
“If we are able to give our farmers and fisherfolk the dignity that they deserve, while ensuring the productivity of our farms and the consistency of our supply, then it will be less challenging to take the next step of conquering the global market.”