Press Release
July 22, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas warned that skyrocketing food and commodity prices will further drive up the incidence of hunger, as he called on President Arroyo to use next week's State of the Nation Address (SONA) to present a comprehensive and focused plan to deal with the ongoing food and oil crisis.

"We don't need a litany of achievements and new promises. We can't have another SONA that only repackages existing projects under new names. What we need is an honest statement on the state of the nation--the state of people's empty pockets and grumbling stomachs--and a real, focused action plan on how we are going to get out of this mire of uncertainty," he said.

"Things are bound to get worse with what's happening now, and with how the government is addressing it," he stressed.

He noted that food is 60% of the total budget of the poorest 30% of the population. Of the food budget, rice takes 25%. Thus, any price increase bears heavily on the poor. The Social Weather Stations recently reported that more people experience hunger now--16.3%--compared to the ten-year average of 12.1%.

"Bago ang lahat, pagkain muna. Pagkakataon itong SONA para itutok ng Pangulo ang buong atensyon ng buong gobyerno sa problema sa pagkain at sa kakulangan at sobrang-kamahal ng pagkain sa bansa natin (Food before everything else. The SONA is an opportunity for the President to focus the government's attention to our food price and supply crisis)," he said.

Roxas, the Liberal Party President, said the government would have to face the problem of rice dependence squarely. Because the country could not produce enough rice to feed the country, the government has to spend $1.68 billion (P74 billion) in importing two million metric tons of rice annually.

He noted that the 1.4 million hectares of irrigated lands nationwide are producing less than what could potentially be produced. One of the main reasons is the drastic increase in the cost of fertilizer, now P1,800 per 50-kilogram bag, leading farmers to use only half of the prescribed four bags of fertilizer per hectare.

"If we only provide our farmers with the needed fertilizer--three more bags over the two they are using now--we could produce an additional 1.1 MT of rice per hectare or 2-3 million MT of rice. This will cost the government only P15 billion, much less than what the NFA is spending to import and subsidize rice," he said.

"Kung ilalagay lang sa tama ang atensyon ng gobyerno, itong kakulangan sa bigas ay malulutas sa loob lang ng isa o dalawang taon (If the government's attention is put in the rice place, the rice shortage we now have could be solved in a year or two). We can solve it now, rather than wait for 2013," he added.

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