Press Release
November 16, 2020

Recto: Budget must fund rehab of 'agri powerhouses' that feed the nation or hunger looms

In a country that sits atop the earthquake corridor and is the doormat to the typhoon alley, it is but inevitable that disasters become macroeconomic assumptions of the national budget.

Typhoons, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions do not only rearrange the lay of the land, they can also reconfigure budgetary priorities.

So when a trio of typhoons blew houses away, it also knocked down a few of the scaffoldings upon which this budget is made.

And when they flooded the country's food basket, a great part of the budget became water-damaged too.

Ulysses hit the country's food basket - the fertile plains of Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon. Suntok sa sikmura. A powerful blow to the gut. Tinaob ng bagyo ang isang malaking kaldero ng bayan.

The regions are also major poultry and livestock producers. They combine into one contiguous agricultural powerhouse, a major contributor to the only sector which by posting growth over the past three quarters has proved itself to be pandemic-proof.

The six provinces - Isabela, Cagayan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan account for 38 percent of the country's palay harvest, 37 percent of chicken production, and almost one-fifth of swine output.

Urgently rehabilitating Ulysses-hit farmlands is a must if we want to eat tomorrow. Helping the farmers in these areas helps us more than it helps them. COVID kills by hunger. We should not allow typhoons to make a pandemic more brutal.

A proposed budget can't ignore disasters. It cannot be immune to changes required to fix the destruction disasters have wrought.

The rehabilitation of farms damaged by the typhoons should be expressed explicitly in the 2021 budget. It is like buying a vaccine against hunger, which is more lethal than the virus.

Farmers fed us during this pandemic. It is time to return the favor.

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