June 21, 2011
Reacting to the government’s pronouncements that the full sale of the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) complex in Taguig is a “priority”, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, says that government should “reconsider” this decision and, instead, find ways to ensure food supply flowing to the metropolis.
“We are making great headway, as far as public-private partnerships are concerned, in addressing the myriad issues that threaten food security in the country,” Pangilinan pointed out. “Government should reconsider the sale of the entire property in light of the critical effort at achieving food security and access to markets.”
This “critical effort” was begun early this year when the Department of Agriculture and the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) co-chaired by Pangilinan in the Senate and Batangas Rep. Mark Mendoza in the House, convened public and private sector representatives for an agriculture and fisheries summit called AF2025. Among AF2025’s goals are to beef up investments in the agricultural sector, provide greater access to credit for “farmpreneurs”, and make supply chain processes more efficient to benefit both agricultural workers and consumers. At the core of AF2025 is close and critical collaboration among all involved sectors.
“The goal of the FTI was to have a food terminal where farmers can drop off their produce so as to bypass the middlemen and allow them to go direct to the market. The biggest market locally is Metro Manila, and direct access to that market would mean better prices for the consumer and higher incomes for a sector that remains poor,” the lawmaker said.
“Let’s zero in on increasing the farmers’ incomes. If we secure our farmers and fisherfolk, we achieve food security.”
The 120-hectare property in Taguig had been in the market since the Arroyo administration, but no sale went through. The current privatization effort covers 103 of the 120 hectares, for which bids have already been made by some of the country’s top development conglomerates. The floor price for the property is estimated at around P13 billion.
Pangilinan pointed out, however, that “the planned sale of the FTI began a few years back, before the spectre of spiraling world food prices hit us in 2008. We need to rethink the policy given serious major developments in food security requirements.”
“Let’s look at the objectives of selling the property. If it is for the benefit of the agricultural sector then funds should be used to strengthen the capability of FTI in its role of providing access to markets. Let’s look for other, more creative solutions to retool the FTI. Market access is key to upping our farmers’ income.”
Pangilinan also pointed out the Aquino administration’s earlier inclination to lease the property instead of selling it outright.
“Is the outright sale of the FTI the answer? Whether the property is sold or leased out, the proceeds must be plowed back to the agricultural sector, whose budget was cut in 2011. The funds should be used to increase public investments in the agriculture sector such as irrigation, farm to market roads and the construction of post harvest facilities. If we are to privatize what was originally meant to revolutionize the agricultural sector of the country, then it is this sector, first and foremost, that should benefit from this move.”
He concludes, “We need to think and do things differently in light of a looming food crisis. Let’s explore the power of partnerships and do so in a way that will ensure the sustainability of our agricultural sector, and adequate and low-priced food supply to our people.