This photo released by fishers group PAMALAKAYA shows a Dec. 9, 2019 mobilization at the Department of Agriculture against the recent galunggong importation order. Farmers and fishers groups on Dec. 11, 2019 said that Sen. Cynthia Villar’s comment that people should look for alternatives to galunggong (round scad) if they find it expensive fails to consider the limited food options available to poor Filipinos.
Pamalakaya, Release
Villar told on galunggong comment: Of course we eat vegetables too
Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - December 11, 2019 - 4:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — Farmers and fishers groups on Wednesday said that Sen. Cynthia Villar’s comment that people should eat something else if they find galunggong (round scad) too expensive does not take into account the limited food options that poor Filipinos have.

The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) said that farmers in the countryside barely consume galunggong because it is expensive and since it does “not usually reach the barrios."

"Peasant families naturally consume vegetables they cultivated and in cases, endure high prices of vegetables in the market. To tolerate the price shocks of galunggong means narrowing further the already limited food choices of the poor sectors," the group said in a release.

Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, told reporters on Tuesday that Filipinos shouldn’t complain about skyrocketing galunggong prices since there are healthier and cheaper alternatives available.

“Bakit ba patay na patay tayo? Mahal na ang galunggong...Kumain ng other means which are cheaper and available. Dami namang choices, bakit ba ini-insist 'yan?"

(Why are we so desperate for galunggong? It’s expensive...Let’s consume other means which are cheaper and available. There’s a lot of choices, why insist on galunggong?)

'She should make sure food is accessible to the poor'

Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said that Villar’s suggestion is blind to social realities like high prices of food items other than galunggong, like rice and vegetables.

"Walang karapatan si Villar magdikta sa tao kung ano ang kakainin, at trabaho nga niya na gawing accessible sa mahihirap ang mga food items," Soriano said.

(Villar has no right to dictate what people should eat and furthermore, it’s her job to ensure that food items are accessible to the poor.)

The Department of Agriculture’s market monitoring showed that galunggong is now between P240 to P280 per kilogram against the usual P180 per kilogram.

Fishers group PAMALAKAYA, meanwhile, said that Villar's comment is "irresponsible" given her position which allows her to probe the alleged shortage of galunggong and if it's necessary to import the commodity.

“We remind Senator Villar that she is duty-bound to ensure that there is stable and affordable supply of agricultural and fishery products in the market,” PAMALAKAYA national chairperson Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
 
The group trooped to the Department of Agriculture on Monday to protest the importation of galunggong.
 
Agriculture Secretary William Dar last week signed off on the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to import 45,000 metric tons of fish, including galunggong, in a bid to stabilize high market prices amid low supply.
 
PAMALAKAYA said, however, that aside from negatively affecting the livelihood of small fishers, the bulk importation also would not guarantee that prices in the market would normalize as private traders maintain market prices "far higher than the farm gate value."
 
“Our call to cancel the importation order is directed not only to the DA and BFAR, but to every concerned government official, most especially Senator Villar, who is in the right position to investigate and resolve this agricultural crisis,” Hicap said.

AMIHAN BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES CYNTHIA VILLAR DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FERNANDO HICAP PAMALAKAYA WILLIAM DAR
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