SOME agriculture industry leaders are urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., concurrent and Agriculture Secretary, to declare a nationwide state of calamity due to food security problems to allow him to promptly address the country’s food supply challenges.
Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. President Danilo V. Fausto said a state of calamity due to food security problems would allow Marcos to intervene in the utilization of local government unit (LGU) funds toward boosting food supply and temper rising prices.
Fausto explained that such a declaration would also be beneficial during the implementation of Mandanas-Garcia ruling, which is expected to boost the funds of the LGUs by about P230 billion.
“The national government has no money. The state of calamity on food security or sufficiency would allow [Marcos] to direct the LGU funds toward food production, for the farmers’ needs,” Fausto told the BusinessMirror.
“A portion of LGU funds can be used in various measures needed in their respective value chains such as value processing, stockpiling, cash assistance, warehousing. It would facilitate faster improvement of food production,” he added.
Philippine Maize Federation Inc. President Roger V. Navarro concurred with Fausto, arguing that the declaration of a state of calamity will allow prioritization of food security by LGUs over other concerns.
“There should be proper targeting for each LGU to monitor, evaluate their performance. Targets or projections are paramount to calibrate expectations and LGU’s [key performance indicators],” Navarro told the BusinessMirror.
United Broiler Raisers Association President Elias Jose Inciong said the declaration of a state of calamity due to food security problems might be “uncomfortable” to some but such action “should be seriously considered” to address pressing issues of the agriculture sector today.
“I would have a very open mind. Some are uncomfortable with such a declaration but given the circumstances, it should be seriously considered and kept,” Inciong told the BusinessMirror.
“There is a caveat to a state of calamity and it should be clear to everyone. It is not just a matter of increasing the budget but proper implementation of laws like AFMA and judicious use of funds,” he added.
During a state of calamity, prices of basic necessities in concerned areas would automatically be frozen at their prevailing prices or placed under an automatic price control, according to Republic Act (RA) 7581 or the Price Act of 1992.
Under RA 10121, the government, including LGUs, may utilize the calamity fund, which includes the quick response fund (QRF), during a state of calamity to provide immediate “relief and recovery” programs to affected citizens.
A declaration of a state of calamity would also encourage all government agencies and LGUs to support the national government, such as mobilization of “necessary” resources, to address the calamity at hand.
Last year, former President Duterte extended the state of calamity nationwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic until September 12 of this year. Duterte also declared a year-long state of calamity nationwide due to the African swine fever outbreak, which lapsed last May 10.
Rice Watch Action Network Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling is lukewarm to the idea of a state of calamity declaration, arguing that Marcos’s presidential powers would already be sufficient to address the “crisis” in the agriculture sector.
“Since he is the President, I don’t think he needs additional or special powers to address the crisis in agriculture. He is more than capable to act with his current dispensation as President,” Tanchuling told the BusinessMirror.
Industry groups have been pitching various wish lists and action plans for Marcos to consider to address the problems of Filipino farmers and fishermen.
The latest of these is a seven-point “Crisis Response Plan” bared by Bayanihan sa Agrikultura that outlined measures Marcos can undertake within the next 100 days to six months to avert “further decline” of the agriculture sector.
Bayanihan sa Agrikultura, a coalition of nearly 100 agricultural groups and associations, proposed the following measures: crafting of a social justice-anchored food sufficiency and trade policy, doubling of agriculture budget next year, revamp of agriculture officials, sustained stakeholders’ collaboration, review of certain laws such as the rice trade liberalization law, implementation of the Coconut Farmers Industry Development Plan and strengthening of partnerships with LGUs, civil society organizations and state universities and colleges.