Press Release
May 6, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas expressed dismay that over 20,000 grade school students in Eastern Visayas will now stop receiving rice allocations under the food-for-school program of the Department of Education due to the worsening rice crisis.

"The food-for-school program has been successful in improving nutrition and reducing drop-out rates among school children. It is extremely worrisome that the rice crisis now poses a direct threat to the viability of this education program," Roxas said.

"While the government is harping on its rice access card program, what we don't know is that it's also cutting funding for other programs. It is giving rice cards to poor families in Metro Manila while taking away rice allocations that would keep poor children in school in the poorest provinces of the country. We're taking away food from one mouth to put in another. Rice access cards program are under DSWD and DA while the food-for-school program is under DepEd. Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?" he said.

The Liberal Party President said things are bound to get worse before they get better, considering the failed auction of the National Food Authority (NFA) where only one bidder showed up.

Roxas said the failed bid forced the NFA to admit that there was a "tightness of supply" in the world market. He added that this should serve as a fair warning to government to consider long-term solutions to the rice problem.

"First, admit that there is a problem. Secondly, come up with a concrete plan that includes both short-term and long-term solutions to solve the problem. Ang problema, sa unang hakbang pa lang ay hindi na tayo nagpakatotoo," Roxas lamented.

Roxas urged the executive branch to cut public expenditures in other areas in order to sustain the government's food-for-school program.

"Officials serving in the boards of government-controlled and -operated corporations should make the supreme sacrifice of giving up some of their perks as a sacrifice for the country. We can also look into restoring a four-day work week in government so we could save on energy costs," he said.

"More importantly, the revenue collection agencies should increase their collections. Let's do what needs to be done to keep these poor children in school," he said.

The Senate Trade Committee Chairman is also for the expansion of the food-for-work program, where poor families are harnessed to help in their communities. He has misgivings about a rice rationing system, such as the rice access cards, because it could be susceptible to politicking.

He added that "maintaining a business-as-usual attitude despite the rice, food, oil and energy crises will plunge more families into the throes of hunger."

Roxas had proposed the following measures to ensure a plentiful domestic harvest:

1. All conversions of irrigated land should be stopped, and investigate how much has the government spent on irrigation for these converted lands;

2. Ensure that all of the inputs necessary--seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, among others--must be made available to farmers;

3. Consider the development of 'small water impounding' irrigation systems, which costs only about P30,000 per hectare, versus large-scale irrigation through dams which costs P100,000 per hectare;

4. Invest in eliminating wastage in the drying of rice, estimated at 30% of annual consumption, and more than enough to cover the NFA's importation of 2 million MT of rice or 17% of annual consumption;

5. Revisit the plans to develop the Agusan and Lanao marsh areas for planting, as these are ideal for planting rice, similar to the Vietnamese river delta basin;

6. Reactivate the peace process in insurgency areas to allow the unimpeded cultivation, planting, tending and harvesting of crops in these areas;

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