SENATOR Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, in a privilege speech Wednesday, said that the rise in food prices is just as important as Covid vaccines and their prices.
Pangilinan said that in the first few weeks of the new year, the prices of food in the market have continued to soar.
“Sa gitna ng isang pandemyang nag-alis ng mga hanapbuhay ng milyun-milyong mga kababayan natin, seryoso ang tanong: Ano nga ba ang mabibili ng P500 mo?” he asked.
“Hindi mapigilang mapa-aray ang mga namamalengke dahil sa sobrang taas ng mga presyo ng mga bilihin. Hindi na malaman ng mga maybahay paano pagkakasyahin ang kakarampot na kinikita ni mister,” he added.
On 18 January 2020, the Department of Agriculture (DA) monitored the prices of the following commodities per kilo: regular milled rice, P38; galunggong, P280; dressed chicken, P180; liempo, P450; talong, P200; repolyo, P230; and siling labuyo, P1,000.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey in September 2020 showed that families who experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food reached a new record-high of 30.7% or an estimated 7.6 million households.
“That is almost one in every three Filipinos,” he said.
At the same time, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said that one in every three Filipino kids is stunted.
“The Philippines ranks fifth among countries in East Asia in the Pacific Region with the highest stunting prevalence and one of 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children in the world,” Pangilinan said.
The former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization said that food prices are on the rise due to a drop in the food supply. He identified four key reasons for the lack of pork, fish, and vegetables: the series of pandemic lockdowns, the successive typhoons during the last quarter of 2020 that destroyed crops, the African swine flu (ASF), and the closed fishing season during the cold months.
Pangilinan added that cheaper food imports like rice, poultry, and sugarcane tend to disadvantage farmers in the global food market and discourage them from agriculture.
“Napakasakit kahit walang sakit,” he said, in reference to Filipinos losing their jobs and their businesses due to the pandemic.
Pangilinan said that many Filipinos are currently in a state of forced intermittent fasting (IF), as they only eat whenever food is available. He offered that if wages cannot be increased, the government should focus on lowering the price of commodities.
The senator-farmer stressed the growth opportunity of the agriculture sector as it is the only sector that grew during the pandemic.
Taking note of all these, Pangilinan pointed out that together with regulating food imports, full implementation of the Sagip Saka law may also help lower food prices.
The Sagip Saka law or Republic Act 11321, which was signed in May 2019, establishes the Farmers and Fisherfolk Enterprise Development Program, and if fully implemented, will hit three birds with one stone as it will help produce income for the farms and increase food supply, resulting in lower food prices in the market.
Ending his speech, he said he has filed Senate Resolution 618 directing the Senate “to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the rising food prices to determine the necessary interventions to stabilize the prices, so that every Filipino has access to adequate and affordable food.”