February 26, 2011
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan today expresses his concern over the volatile situation in the Middle East and the effects these will have on the state of food prices in the country which have already started to rise even before the riots in that part of the world began.
“We call on the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Finance to address worse case scenarios should oil prices and prices of other basic commodities rise due to the ongoing political turmoil in the Middle East,” Pangilinan says. “The DA should monitor the availability of food supply. The NFA must ensure rice stock remains available. The DTI should ensure strict monitoring of prices of basic commodities and protect consumers from profiteering.”
Pangilinan stressed the need for careful planning right now rather than sounding the alarm bells later when the crisis has already landed on our shores. He said the government should lead the private sector in coming up with stronger measures to mitigate rising food prices across the globe, which began to reach record highs even before the political unrest began in the Middle East.
“Some Asian governments have already started to come up with measures to mitigate rising prices. Erratic weather patterns have started wreaking havoc on our agricultural lands. China and India are stockpiling on grains, which means we need to rely less on importation to secure our buffer. The price of oil continues to soar. It is a matter that requires our serious attention.”
Pangilinan, who is the Senate Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, adds that the current situation may be likened to the 2008 global food crisis. Data from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization show that food price indices across the globe rise dramatically from 2006-2008. The same agency said that global food prices hit a record high on the month of December 2010 exceeding the levels of 2008, adding that prices of key grains could rise even further.
Pangilinan is amenable to granting the President emergency powers should the situation continue to escalate. “If the situation warrants it we will support such powers. No one anticipated the turn of events in the Middle East, and considering that some 1 million of our countrymen are based there and in addition the impact on the global economy may be adverse then we need to have a President empowered to protect our interest in times of international crisis. We also trust that President Aquino will not allow for such emergency powers to be abused.”
For his part, Pangilinan filed a resolution to conduct an inquiry on the government’s ability to address the sudden increase of food prices and other agricultural products. Senate Resolution 394 states that the government should recognize that there is an emergent apprehension among farmers and producers regarding the instability and uncertainty in food markets not only in the country, but also countries such as Argentina, Brazil and the United States.
“We will gather all the necessary data and invite all possible resource persons including experts from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization so that we may know exactly what we are dealing with and from there be able to craft policies and legislate accordingly.”
“Food security is a matter of national security. It is a matter of paramount national interest. Only the combined efforts of both government and the citizenry will ensure that we will overcome these challenges. We need to tackle the issue of food security head on. We must pull the bull by its horns and ensure that both the government and our citizens are mobilized to address the challenges of rising food costs.”
Image Source: National Security Law Brief