Press Releases

“Stubborn” hunger figures alarm Salceda; Albay solon says food security still “Priority No. 1” for Marcos government, as agri damage, global conditions threaten 2023 food supply

November 2nd, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) expressed alarm over the Q2 Social Weather Stations Hunger Survey, which indicates that the overall hunger only decreased by 0.2 percentage points to 11.3% during the second quarter of 2022, while hunger numbers are up in Metro Manila.

“It’s alarming that despite more reopening of the economy, hunger remains stubborn. This, I attribute in large part to high inflation with a still-fluid jobs situation. But the availability of cheap food at all times is also clearly a major cause. Metro Manila, where inflation has been lower than most other regions, has the highest hunger rate among the major groupings.”

Salceda cited that according to the survey, the highest incidence of hunger is in Metro Manila, with 16.3% of families or some 558,000 families experiencing moderate or severe hunger, followed by Mindanao at 15.3%, Balance Luzon at 9.6% and the Visayas at 7%

“As long as hunger numbers do not see major improvements, and given global conditions, food security should be atop PBBM’s priorities, with agriculture and food trade being the most important concerns.”

Salceda adds that continuing risks that hunger figures will remain high over succeeding quarters are food inflation, expected to remain up at least towards the end of 2022, massive agricultural sector damage due to Typhoon Paeng, high input costs such as fertilizer and fuel due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and La Nina.

“I don’t see how we are going to have exceptionally good harvests of rice, sugar, and corn next year either, so the situation at least on the domestic front could still be challenging,” Salceda said.

In response to the risks of higher or continuing hunger, Salceda is proposing that President Marcos compose a “Food Security Cluster” in the Cabinet to take up issues with food security and hunger in a “more holistic, whole-of-government way.”

“There are areas with food security that are beyond the mandate of the Department of Agriculture, which PBBM heads. Whether we like it or not, for example, some 20-25% of our food is imported. So Customs, the DOTr, and our ports play a key role in getting food where it is needed.”

“Energy also plays a key role in food security, with fuel being the key input for the fishery sector. So, cheap energy means cheap food, or at least cheap fish.”

“Early warning systems and weather prediction methods are also extremely crucial in protecting our food from typhoons and other disasters. So, the DOST and the DND play important roles in our food security strategies.”

“The DTI is also crucial, especially food that reaches consumers comes through retailers and wholesalers. And the PCC’s interventions would have been crucial in rice monopsonies and market abuse in sugar.”

Clear roles for Marcos’s ‘right hand’ in DA crucial

Salceda adds that a DA Undersecretary who is “clearly the President’s right hand on agriculture” will also be essential.

“An Administrative Order outlining what the roles, functions, and responsibilities of the DA ‘Senior Undersecretary’ are will ensure organizational order. The President obviously has more concerns than agriculture, so from time to time, he will need an empowered deputy in the DA.”

“The Senior Undersecretary should also sit in the Cabinet, not necessarily as a member, but to ensure that he is up to date with everything his principal might direct for the department, both as Secretary and as President and head of the Food Security Cluster.”

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