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Multilateral approach needed to solve food problem, group says

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Non-government organization Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) is urging president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to take a multilateral approach in dealing with food security problem amid global challenges.

The group noted that the food value chain is not singular and that there is a need to deal with national interests in terms of food sovereignty and with different countries and stakeholders that provide key markets and inputs.

“Definitely, we must take a more plural approach, a multilateral one, because we have to take into account all the stakeholders involved,” PRRM president Edicio dela Torre said.

The group stressed that the world is facing increasing problems that hinder economies in achieving food security, “ and the Philippines is no exception.”

Among the challenges are the worsening climate change, rapid population growth, elevated food costs and other global tensions that impact trade and commodity prices.

“We hope that they will prioritize food security and local producers, providing them necessary support and policies that will empower and push them to be locally and globally competitive,” Dela Torre said.

He added that the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine proved the country’s vulnerability to shocks as agricultural commodities such as wheat and fertilizers, which the Philippines imports, have seen sharp price increases over the past months.

Other goods are also being affected due to the elevated oil prices in the world market.

Dela Torre said while Marcos has yet to name his agriculture chief, he already expressed his intention to make agriculture among his top priorities as he targets a Philippines that is food-secure and resilient.

“We hope the President prioritizes our local food security, our farmers and our fishermen by not only providing support and aid to the industry but also by strengthening our navy, maritime police and coast guard so we can protect what is ours,” Dela Torre said.

“We want the President to prioritize our local producers. China makes up 86 percent of our seafood and 22 percent of fish imports. Its top export is galunggong, which now sells at P250 to P350 a kilo. Our main fish staple is now a protein that is more expensive than chicken and is almost equal to pork,” he said.

Dela Torre pointed out that most of the country’s agriculture is centered on rice and other land-based crops but there are 1.9 million people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sectors.

“Importation has been the stop gap solution but this is not the long term solution. There are several ways to close the fishing gaps and importation is not one of them,” he said.

“We have to prioritize securing our local fishing grounds and the exclusive economic zone and empower our fishermen to fish in our own waters,” he added.

The group cited the need to have a separate department to oversee the whole fishing industry and help institutionalize the Philippines as a maritime country.

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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