Higher yields top BBM’s priority as concurrent DA chief

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INCOMING President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. will prioritize increasing the country’s food production when he takes over as concurrent head of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

In a press briefing, he pointed out that the rice exportation ban being currently imposed by Thailand and Vietnam, the Philippines’ main sources of imported rice, left the country with no choice but to increase its local production.

“You may have noted that Thailand, Vietnam for example, one of our main sources of imported rice, have decided to ban their rice exports at least for now. So, we have to compensate for that by hopefully increasing production here in the Philippines, so that’s one,” Marcos said when asked for his priorities as DA chief.

“There are many priorities that we have to attend to simultaneously, first of all will be try to increase production as we come to the planting period, the harvest period after the rainy season, during, before, and after the rainy season. Hopefully, we can counteract some of the increases in prices,” he added.

The President-elect announced Monday that he would be assuming the portfolio of Secretary of Agriculture due to the severity of the problem that the country would face with the looming food crisis and the continued increase in food prices.

“Furthermore, it is in response to the events in Ukraine which has affected the Philippines’ agriculture and including the food supply in a very serious way,” he further explained.

Another priority Marcos cited is the restructuring of the DA, though it would be a long-term process, to make it more responsive to the current global situation in terms of food supply.

He added this would include the return of agencies and organizations under the department, such as the National Food Authority (NFA), the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI), and Kadiwa, among others,  to their original mandates and functions

“As I have mentioned many times before, many of the agencies have changed their functions over the years and maybe it’s time to return them. I talked about the organizations like the NFA, the FTI, and the Kadiwa, which we already have started to see especially at the local level but we have to structure the actual department so as to be more responsive to the global situation now when it comes to food supply,” the incoming President said.

In line with the programs he discussed with his economic managers, Marcos said there may be a need to review the P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund created by Republic Act (RA) 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law.

“Well if there is one part of the rice tariffication, it is the area wherein we reinvest the amount of funding that we reinvest into for our farmers, and mechanization, and post-harvest facilities. Which is part of the rice tariffication, there’s P10 billion that is returned to the farming community,” he replied when asked what part of the law will be reviewed, which was one of his pronouncements during the campaign.

“Maybe we can have a look at that and see, maybe that now that we are in a situation where we very much have to boost production and we very much have to support the farmers, maybe we can look at that and hopefully increase it,” he continued.

“Pag nakikita naman natin ‘yung accounting doon sa rice tariffication, ‘yung P10-billion na ‘yun kung minsan merong pang unspent so pwede pang gamitin ‘yun,” he added.

Section 13 of RA11203, which took effect last March 5, 2019, provides that a Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund will be created with an annual appropriation of P10 billion for the next six years following the approval of the law.

The said fund will be used for programs, which will be implemented in rice-producing areas, such as procurement of rice farm machineries  like tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, irrigation pumps, small solar irrigation, reapers, driers, millers, and others.

Other programs also provided for under the said section of the law are rice seed development, propagation, and promotion; expanded rice credit assistance; and rice extension services.

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