Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Monday urged the national government to also focus on strengthening the country’s “food production frontlines” by pouring funds to improve and enhance the agriculture and agribusiness sectors.
“Hindi naman lingid sa ating kaalaman na naapektuhan ng virus na ito ang lahat ng aspeto sa ating buhay, kasama na ang produksyon ng pagkain,” he said.
“At meron ding mga agam-agam na mauubusan tayo ng supply ng pagkain kapag nagpatuloy pa ng matagal ang epidemyang ito,” said Hataman, former regional governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“The government should therefore resume, with a new sense of urgency, the repair and construction of rural infrastructure like irrigation and support to farmers and farm producers, which are needed to boost food production,” Hataman said.
“Kaya mainam na siguruhin natin na tayo ay may maihahain sa ating mga hapag-kainan sa mga susunod na buwan at taon,” he added.
“Kaya kasama ng ating panawagan na i-upgrade ang ating mga ospital laban sa COVID-19, sabayan din natin ng Grow, Grow, Grow program para sa ating mga bukid at taniman sa kanayunan.”
The Basilan legislator said strengthening the country’s farms is also the right step to achieve food security and self-sufficiency, as many countries have already imposed export bans or some form of restrictions on some food commodities to protect domestic supply.
“We need to build resiliency against pandemics and multiple disasters. Habang pinapalakas natin ang ating healthcare system, we need also to boost our food production. Frontlines din yan. We cannot battle Covid-19 or any other calamity or disaster that will come our way on an empty stomach or on fears of a limited food supply,” he stressed.
According to data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) late last year, more than a quarter of the country’s food supply was imported.
Import dependence rose to 29.16 percent in 2018, up from 22.67 percent in 2017 and 22.51 percent in 2016, said the PSA’s Food Balance Sheets for 2016-2018.
Hataman said that since the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in Metro Manila and in some parts of the country since mid-March, food insecurity seems to be one of the chief concerns of the people affected by the measure.
“Natutunan natin na sa isang pandemic, isa sa mga malalaking problema ng mga tao ay kung papaano sila kakain kung sasabihan mo sila na manatili sa kanilang mga bahay,” he said.
“Kaya mahalaga ang ating food resiliency sa mga ganitong pagkakataon,” Hataman said.