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Kiko Pangilinan calls for focus on climate crisis, food security in 2020
Franco Luna ( - January 1, 2020 - 11:42am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Francis Pangilinan called for a sharpened focus in the areas of climate change and food security, citing higher prices triggered by TRAIN Law, low farmers' incomes and the natural disasters that came at 2019's end.

"Produksyon ng pagkain o ang pagsasaka at pangingisda ang mga unang naaapektuhan nito," the senator said in a statement on Tuesday night, referring to the global climate crisis. 

"Sundin natin ang mga panawagan ng mga scientists na ibaba ang ating tinatawag na carbon footprint at bawasan ang polusyon."

(Food production or farming and fishing are the first things that this climate crisis affects. We should heed the calls of scientists to lower what we call our carbon footprint and lessen pollution.) 

He also pointed to the Rice Tarriffication Law, which he said only doubled the existing burdens of rice farmers. 

As of the fourth week of November 2019, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) recorded the average farmgate price of palay at P15.57 per kilo. 

READ: Think tank urges making compensation for rice farmers a priority

But farmers themselves have said that the actual price, particularly in far-flung areas, plunge to as low as P7 per kilo, much lower than their production cost of around P12.

Data from the US Department of Agriculture-Foreign Agricultural Service showed that the Philippines imported the most rice in the world even over China whose population is over a billion.

And according to a statement by the PSA in December, the Philippines is steadily relying more and more on food imports to ensure sufficient supply and to stabilize prices. Economists, too, have said that the top-importer status was only an indication of the country stocking up and said that it should even out eventually. 

The senator also called for stricter policy in a number of areas, namely single-use plastic, rainwater management, urban agriculture, organic farming, solid waste importation, food waste reduction, electric and hybrid vehicles incentives, national mangrove forest protection, expanded crop insurance, post-harvest facilities, among others. 

A 2015 report by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment on plastic pollution ranked the Philippines as the third-biggest source of plastic waste in the oceans just after China and Indonesia.

Pangilinan has filed a bill to ban single-use plastics.

READ: Pangilinan seeks ban on single-use plastic

The Single-Use Plastics Regulation and Management Bill bans food establishments, stores, markets, and retailers from issuing single-use plastic items. 

On the front of solid waste management, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2019 penned a policy looking to temporarily ban all waste imports entering the country. 

This, while the National Mangrove Forest Protection and Preservation Act of 2019 is listed as pending in the committee level as of July 24, 2019. 

Typhoon Tisoy (international name Kammuri) which came in the first week of December 2019, brought with it agricultural damages amounting to P2.097 billion, while those of Typhoon Ursula (international name Phanfone) stood at over P1 billion. 

READ: Tisoy damage to agriculture hits P2 billion

Farmers affected by the Rice Tarriffication Law say that the law's Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and related programs from the government did litte to alleviate their circumstances. 

Last August, Bantay Bigas spokesperson and Amihan Secretary-General Cathy Estavillo said that the fund seemed to only exist "[t]o show that there is government support to affected rice farmers."

Sen. Risa Hontiveros last December also urged the administration to include rice infrastructure initiatives in the Build, Build, Build flagship program to ease strains on the agriculture sector. 

"Nawa'y maging 20-20 ang pagtingin ng taumbayan sa katotohanan sa 2020," Pangilinan said. 

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