Pangilinan on SONA: Hunger, food prices went up over the last 5 years

July 27, 2021

AS President Rodrigo Duterte winds down his last year as chief executive and delivers his last State of the Nation Address Monday, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan in an interview responds to media queries about grading the ruling administration’s performance.

Pangilinan, former secretary of food security, pointed out that food prices have gone up over the last five years, and increased hunger rates as a consequence.

He said that in 2015, regular milled rice was P34 a kilo, pork about P190 a kilo, and chicken P120 a kilo while as of June this year 2021, per kilo of regular milled rice averages P38, pork P330, and chicken P160.

Pangilinan ascribed the increases in food prices to the government’s pro-importation policy. He said this stance did not benefit food producers like farmers and hog-raisers nor consumers.

Increases in food prices also caused hunger to double among Filipino families, he said.

Citing government data, Pangilinan said that in 2016, hunger rate was around 10.6% affecting about 2.4 million Filipino families. Over the last five years, it slowly inched up and then ballooned in 2020 to 20.9% affecting about 5.2 million Filipino families.

“Napaka-basic ang pagkain. Pag wala o kulang ang pagkain, hindi makakatrabaho o makakapag-aral nang maayos dahil kulang sa lakas at sustansya ang katawan,” he said.

Asked to grade the Duterte administration, Pangilinan compared the Philippines to a ship at sea during a storm. He said the captain and the crew are giving conflicting statements on how to navigate the ship out of the Covid storm.

He said the ruling administration has one more year to go to improve its performance, stressing the need to catch up given that the country is faring badly in the handling of the pandemic and its effects.

“Kailangan nilang maghabol kasi maraming mga kakulangan lalo na ‘nung pumasok na ang Covid at ang daming nawalan ng trabaho, ang daming gutom, hindi nagagastos nang maayos ‘yung pondo ng gobyerno at kumpleto, mayroon pa ring matinding pangungurakot — ‘yung Philhealth among others so kailangan niyang maghabol,” Pangilinan said.

In terms of what he wants to hear from the State of the Nation Address that is set to be delivered in the afternoon during the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Pangilinan said he wants to know how the government plans to overcome the pandemic and its effects given that international monitoring agencies are not so optimistic about the Philippines.

Moody’s Investors Service pegged the Philippines’ economy as the “clear laggard” of Asia because of missteps in handling the Covid-19 and is predicted to return to its pre-pandemic level by late 2022.

“I wouldn’t give him a grade of fail or pass dahil hindi pa naman siya tapos. Pero maaaring pumasa siya kung aayusin talaga niya, at magkaroon na ng maliwanag na patakaran. And that’s what I want to hear later, ‘yung paano natin malalagpasan itong Covid, paano natin mapanunumbalik ang ekonomiya, paano matitiyak ‘yung vaccine rollout ay talagang sapat na? At itong delta variant, tayo ba ay handa?” Pangilinan asked.

Pangilinan highlighted that it’s up to Filipino voters to decide if they want another six years of more or less the same kind of governance given that they have the chance to decide on this in the May 2022 elections.

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