Press Release
January 21, 2021

Senate to hold hearings on rising food prices: Pangilinan

THE Senate will be conducting hearings to determine the necessary interventions to stabilize and lower food prices following Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan's proposed Senate Resolution 618 seeking an inquiry into rising food prices.

Toward the end of his privileged speech Wednesday afternoon, the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization thanked Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, for agreeing to conduct hearings on his resolution.

In his proposed Senate Resolution 618, Pangilinan said the objective of the hearings is to ensure that every Filipino consumer, especially the poor, have access to adequate and affordable food.

Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri said the issue is very timely and the hearing would help focus on the problem at hand.

Senator Pia Cayetano moved to include the speech in a joint referral to the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation and Future Thinking.

Senator Imee Marcos also moved to invite the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to enforce the Price Act which seeks to protect consumers from undue price increases during emergency situations.

Pangilinan said the issue of rising food prices is closely related to the issue of health - everyone's primary concern now during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Habang tumataas ang presyo ng pagkain, lalo pang dadami ang magugutom," he explained.

"Kailangan nating tutukan ito dahil ang usapin ng pagkain ay usapin din ng kalusugan. Kung patuloy ang pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain, dagdag pasakit sa ating mga kababayan," he added.

A Social Weather Stations survey last September 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, showed that families who experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food reached a new record-high of 30.7 percent, or an estimated 7.6 million households. That is almost one in every three Filipinos.

According to Unicef, a third of children in the Philippines are stunted. The World Health Organization estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic may cause stunting among children under five years old if no mitigating interventions are put in place.

"Isa sa tatlong kababayan natin ay nagutom noong pandemya at isa sa tatlong bata ay nababansot dahil kulang sa pagkain at sustansya. Kung magpapatuloy ang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pagkain, mas dadami pa ang magugutom, mas madami pa ang mababansot," Pangilinan said.

Aside from the pandemic lockdowns that disrupted the food supply chain, other factors that may have caused food prices to go up include: the African swine flu, which infected pigs in Luzon; flooding of food imports; and the decline in the number of Filipino farmers planting after consecutive losses as cheaper food imports push their produce out of the market.

"Once we know what causes these sudden spikes in prices, we would do everything to bring down the prices as soon as possible. Tutulong kaming taga-Senado," said Pangilinan.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), through Secretary William Dar is leading initiatives to bring down the prices. To stabilize the supply and price of pork, the DA is looking to increase shipments of hogs from Visayas, Mindanao, and other ASF-free areas or "green zones" in Luzon, while also encouraging pork imports from ASF-free countries.

Executive Order No. 123 was also signed, to retain the tariff rate of imported mechanically deboned meat of chicken and turkey at 5 percent until end of 2022. This would help ensure the continued supply at stable prices of canned and processed meat products.

But as we regulate the food imports, we must also push to fully implement the Sagip Saka law, which was signed in May of 2019, said Pangilinan.

"Kapag kumikita ang ating mga magsasaka, sila ay mas ma-e-engganyong magtanim. At pag mas marami silang ani, mas mababa ang presyo ng mga bilihin sa palengke," he added.

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