Press Release
July 30, 2010


Following President Noynoy Aquino's revelation of excessive rice importation during his maiden SONA, Senator Edgardo J. Angara renewed call to strengthen policies on domestic trade and agriculture, including its sub-sectors, and to implement strategies to ward off a possible food shortage and price crisis in the country.

"I have always been in support for a sustainable program for our agriculture. If we are able to provide the necessary support for farmers - infrastructure, post-harvest, irrigation, access to credit - we will dramatically increase local production and do away with heavy rice importation" said Angara who is a former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

He added, "Our farmers have long been suffering from problems such as lack of grains facilities, post-harvest network, as well as environmental factors like salinity of water, flood and drought. In the Philippines, around 400,000 hectares of coastal rice-growing land is affected by salinity from sea water. Farmers often don't plant in this region because of the risk of crop failure. Frequent experience of severe typhoons causing flood makes us lose an estimated 228,350 tons of rice and upland areas in the Philippines suffer from drought due to lack of water. We need to address these issues immediately if food is our priority."

A United Nations food envoy said a new food price crisis is only a matter of time, attributing to similar key factors behind the price spikes in 2008: speculation and the domination of global food markets by large agri-business corporations.

The World Bank agrees that the world needs to be prepared for another food crisis and steps should be taken immediately to build food security in developing countries. Recovery of developed countries from the global economic crisis is resulting in higher oil prices, causing the price of agricultural inputs and commodities to rise. This puts the Philippines, one of the world's biggest rice importers, in a particularly vulnerable state.

"As a result of inadequacies in our agriculture sector, food is more expensive to produce here than in many parts of Asia. Plugging these huge post-harvest losses in the grains sector, even only by half, would dramatically reduce our import dependency ratio. Moreover, Philippine agriculture is handicapped by the lack of basic facilities such as farm to market roads, irrigation networks, fishing ports and access to basic credit," said Angara.

Angara further urged the new Congress to expedite the legislative processes of pending bills in the Senate that address the flaws of agriculture laws.

Among the reforms Angara proposes are the Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Act of 2009 (SB3100), the Coconut Industry Development Act (SB2873), Coconut Emergency Measures Act (SB869) and the Rural Employment Generation Act (SB883). These bills are geared towards addressing the shortages in production among the agriculture sub-sectors, maximizing rural lands, innovations in the coconut industry and reforms in the previously enacted Agro-Fisheries Law, also another of Angara's landmark laws.

"A healthy stock situation and good production are the best way to avoid shortages and a major price surge. This emphasizes the need to increase our local food production by investing in agricultural infrastructure, especially post-harvest facilities, and stronger research and development initiatives," said Angara.

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