Press Release
February 28, 2010

Villar's platform
RP's 'Salad Bowl' eyed for feeding programs

Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manny Villar vowed to ease the plight of Cordillera farmers by tapping their produce for the government's multi-billion-peso Food-for-School program.

"Cordillera farmers have long suffered from the ill effects of vegetable smuggling, high middleman costs and fluctuating prices. We can provide stable income for them by tweaking the Food-for-School program to make vegetable noodles its staple," Villar said.

Villar made this remark on the side during his visit to La Trinidad, Benguet. The province, which is part of the Cordillera Region, holds the claim as the "Salad Bowl of the Philippines" because of the huge production of upland vegetables.

The country produces 1,800 metric tons of vegetables and fruits a day, with the Cordillera region accounting for roughly one-fourth of the output. Production revenues are believed to exceed P30 billion a year, according to some studies conducted by the Peasant Education and Studies Center (PESC).

Villar said Cordillera farmers continue to reel under the massive importations of vegetables from China and other Asian markets.

In 1994, vegetable imports accounting for only about five percent of local supply, roughly 55,000 metric tons. By 2001, import volumes reached 150,000 metric tons.

"Matagal nang napapabayaan ang kapakanan ng mga magsasaka dito sa Cordillera region. Walang sapat na safety nets (The welfare of the Cordillera farmers have long been ignored. There have been no adequate safety nets). This will change under my leadership. We will commit to buying their produce regularly, thus ensuring a stable income for them," Villar said.

And to ensure the sustainability of the farmers' operations, the NP presidential bet said his administration would immediately construct refrigerated storage facilities in the Cordillera region.

At the same time, Villar said vegetable noodles can be fortified with vitamins, which will make them very rich in nutrition.

"The objective of the feeding program is to entice street children to go to school by giving them free food. By tapping the produce of our vegetable farmers, we will be able to address their concerns about productivity and income, as well as malnutrition and illiteracy among children," he said.

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute said an increased consumption of vegetables can greatly bring down malnutrition.

"By tapping the produce of our farmers, we can easily cut down our importation of wheat which is used in making noodles. There is no reason not to patronize our own farmers because assuring them a stable income can help in establishing a regime of stable prices," Villar said.

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