Press Release
September 16, 2013

Opening speech of Sen. Cynthia Villar
during the hearing on the rice price hike

Inquiry on Senate Resolution 233
Senate Committee on Agriculture & Food


Ang taong 2013 ay itinalaga bilang 'National Year of the Rice' ni Presidente Noynoy Aquino sa ilalim ng Proclamation No. 494 upang mapaigting ang layunin ng gobyerno na makamtan ang rice-self-sufficiency at upang makiisa ang mga Pilipino sa kampanyang sapat na bigas para sa lahat.

Two years ago, isinulong din ng Department of Agriculture ang Food Staples Sufficiency Program o FSSP na kinabibilangan ng bigas at iba pang mga staple food katulad ng mais, saba, kamoteng kahoy at kamote. The FSSP identified a three-pronged approach: to raise farm productivity and competitiveness; enhance economic incentives and enabling mechanisms; and manage food staples consumption. Nais rin natin malaman kung ano na ang sitwasyon sa mga areas na iyan at kung ang mga stratehiya ay epektibo.

While the overall goal is self-sufficiency in food staples, the main focus of the FSSP is self-sufficiency in rice. Why rice? Rice is the country's main staple and remains an important crop as food and as source of livelihood. Rice provides 45% of the caloric intake of Filipinos. It accounts for 20% of a typical household's budget.

Thus, it is fitting that we make an assessment of how far along are we in meeting our long-standing goal of rice-self-sufficiency and to revisit the strategies that the concerned departments and agencies are employing in ensuring that we meet our targets. Halos tatlong buwan at kalahati na lang ay tapos na ang taon, makakamit na nga ba ng bansa ang rice-self-sufficiency?

Iyan at iba pang mga isyu ang bubusisiin natin, bunsod ng Senate Resolution 233 authored and filed by Senator Loren Legarda. The resolution tasked this committee to look into "the claims of certain groups and agencies concerning the actual state of rice supply in the country, including the role and policies of the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority (NFA) given our goal of national rice sufficiency".

Ang nasabing Senate Resolution ay maraming mga katanungan na isinusulong at naghahanap ng mga klaripikasyon, na hangad natin ay masagot at maibigay ng ating naimbitahan na panel of resource persons.

The Department of Agriculture has issued reassuring statements that we have sufficient supply of rice and even announced that we may be 100-percent rice-self-sufficient by the end of the year. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala during our committee meeting and briefings as well as in his interviews with journalists cited that the country's rice output is projected to hit 20 million metric tons this year, which will be enough to feed the country's population of 97 million. We will hear all the data and statistics about that later on.

In short, the Department of Agriculture has given reassurances that we have sufficient supply of rice and yet, despite those, as Senator Legarda's Senate Resolution cited, "contrary indications appear to be prevalent in almost all areas in the country and may even be ominous of an impending rice crisis as shown by constant price increases due to repeated supply shortages".

May mga naitala at nai-report na mga pagtaas o fluctuations sa presyo ng bigas. Kung kaya, layunin din ng Senate inquiry na ito na bigyan ng pagkakataon ang Department of Agriculture at NFA na sagutin at linawin ang mga naturang mga report at insidente na sumasalungat sa kanilang mga statements o maging mandato bilang kinauukulang departamento at ahensya.

As I cited earlier, we need to revisit existing strategies as well as policies, programs and policies regarding rice-self-sufficiency goals. There might be a possibility that some factors might challenge the realization of such goals. For instance, I have asked Secretary Alcala in a previous meeting, whether the strong typhoons that hit our country in recent months would adversely affect our targets. Are our targets really realistic and attainable?

The Senate Resolution also calls for the reexamination of "the national supply thresholds, standards, rules and regulations controlling the country's rice production and supply stabilization initiatives". Issues and queries about rice imports will also be tackled at the course of this inquiry.

During the first ever hearing two weeks ago, I shared that I was glad to get the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food because I believe I can make a positive difference here. And that difference will accrue to a significant number of Filipinos. The Philippines, after all, is an agricultural country.

We are an agricultural country and majority of our people are in agriculture-related jobs and businesses. To quote, the FSSP report itself: "a third of the Philippine population can be found in agriculture living on one-tenth of the national gross domestic product (GDP). Close to half of farm households live in absolute poverty. For the rural poor, including small farmers and landless farm workers, getting access to adequate nutritious and healthy food is a daily struggle."

Under the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, food security and raising incomes of the farmers are the agriculture sector's ultimate goals. Kung kaya, naniniwala ako na napakaimportante na linawin at tuwirin natin ang mga isues concerning the country's rice production, supply, imports, self-sufficiency targets, among other agriculture-related matters. Dapat walang bahid ng duda at ispekulasyon sa mga isyung iyan na nakakaapekto sa ating lahat, sa buong populasyon ng bansa.

So hopefully, after this inquiry, we can put those issues to rest and buckle down to work on really improving the global competitiveness of our farmers and the country's agriculture sector as a whole. The country's integration to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in two years' time will bring about cutthroat competition, thus we have to be globally competitive.

Magandang tanghali sa inyo.

News Latest News Feed