Press Release
January 26, 2021

Hontiveros to DA, NIA: Prioritize recovery of typhoon-hit "food basket" areas to address rising food costs

Senator Risa Hontiveros is calling on government to 'make a big push' for the recovery of the agricultural "food baskets" hard-hit by disasters last year, in a bid to help address supply shortages that have drastically driven up food prices throughout the country.

"Hindi lang price control at monitoring ang mga paraan para maampat ang mabilis na pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin. Mas mabilis na bababa ang preso ng gulay, prutas, karne at ibang pagkain kung agad matutulungan ng pamahalaan na mapuno ang mga "food baskets". Kailangang maibalik sa normal ang kanilang productivity levels," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said that government should particularly provide adequate shelter and food assistance to vital agricultural supply areas until the first harvests arrive in summer. The senator put emphasis on areas like Northern Luzon and the Bicol Region, which were heavily affected by a spate of typhoons in 2020. Citing data from theNational Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Hontiveros noted that Cagayan Valley lost P2.1B worth of crops due to Typhoon Ulysses, along with P 5B damaged or destroyed infrastructure. Likewise, the Bicol Region lost P629M worth of crops and P2.3B in infrastructure.

"Sinira ng mga bagyo ang mga pananim, mga alagang hayop at mismong kabahayan ng marami sa ating mga magsasaka at agricultural workers sa Northern Luzon at Bicol Region. Pinakamataas ang inflation levels sa mga lugar na iyan, ayon mismo sa Philippine Statistics Authority at marami ang walang kita at walang makain sa pangaraw-araw ngayon. Kailangan natin silang tulungan para sila ay muling agad makabalik sa pagtatanim, pagsasaka at pagaalaga ng mga hayop," she said.

According to Hontiveros, among the immediate actions which can be taken by government include the repair of drainages and irrigation systems damaged during the floods, storms and mudflows, which she said is mostly the task of the Department of Agriculture (DA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA) and local government units.

The senator said the NIA along with LGUs should immediately identify and develop 'shovel-ready' irrigation and farm repair projects which could be implemented at the soonest. She added that workers for such projects can be contracted via the 'pakyaw' system or the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) cash-for-work program which can enable the hiring of local residents, thus helping provide livelihood to their communities.

"These types of initiatives have already been done before and they just need to be expanded. In Samar, DSWD, via the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), empowered 4Ps beneficiary families to build new tertiary irrigation canals. In Iloilo, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) facilitated labor intensive projects that built drainages to protect flood-prone agricultural and residential areas," she said.

Hontiveros also said that the NDRRMC can supplement the quick reaction funds (QRFs) of other agencies so greater funding may be devoted to the repair of irrigation systems, roads and other agriculture infrastructure.

"Kailangan nating kumilos ng agaran at malakihan upang matulungan ang mga magsasaka na nagpapakain sa buong bansa. They are the key to ending this food crisis," Hontiveros concluded.

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