Hontiveros prods gov’t: Prioritize recovery of typhoon-hit ‘food baskets’
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the government to prioritize agricultural areas hit hard by typhoons last year, in a bid to help address supply shortages that have jacked up food prices throughout the country.
“Hindi lang price control at monitoring ang mga paraan para maampat ang mabilis na pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin. Mas mabilis na bababa ang preso ng gulay, prutas, karne at ibang pagkain kung agad matutulungan ng pamahalaan na mapuno ang mga ‘food baskets,’” Hontiveros said in a statement.
(Price control and monitoring are not the only ways to stop the rapid rise of commodity prices. Prices of vegetables, fruits, meat, and other foods will go down faster if the government immediately helps fill “food baskets.”)
“Kailangang maibalik sa normal ang kanilang productivity levels,” she added.
(Their productivity levels need to be restored to normal.)
This comes after the Department of Agriculture (DA) recommended the imposition of new price ceilings to control rising food prices.
READ: Duterte urged to impose a price freeze on pork, veggies
Hontiveros stressed the need for the government to provide shelter and food assistance to vital agricultural supply areas until the first harvests arrive in the summer, emphasizing hard-hit areas like Northern Luzon, and the Bicol region.
Citing data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Hontiveros noted that Cagayan Valley lost P2.1 billion worth of crops due to Typhoon Ulysses, along with P5 billion damaged or destroyed infrastructure while the Bicol Region lost P629 million worth of crops and P2.3 billion in infrastructure.
“Sinira ng mga bagyo ang mga pananim, mga alagang hayop at mismong kabahayan ng marami sa ating mga magsasaka at agricultural workers sa Northern Luzon at Bicol Region. Pinakamataas ang inflation levels sa mga lugar na iyan, ayon mismo sa Philippine Statistics Authority at marami ang walang kita at walang makain sa pangaraw-araw ngayon.”
(The typhoons destroyed the crops, livestock and households of many of our farmers and agricultural workers in Northern Luzon and the Bicol Region. The inflation levels are highest in those areas, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, and many still have no income and food for their daily needs to this day.)
“Kailangan natin silang tulungan para sila ay muling agad makabalik sa pagtatanim, pagsasaka at pagaalaga ng mga hayop,” she said.
(We need to help them so that they can get back to farming, farming and raising animals immediately.)
Aside from this, Hontiveros also urged DA, the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), and local government units (LGUs) to focus on the repair of drainage and irrigation systems that were damaged during the floods, storms, and mudflows.
The senator said NIA, along with LGUs, should immediately identify and develop “shovel-ready” irrigation and farm repair projects which could be implemented as soon as possible.
She added that workers for such projects can be hired via the “pakyaw” system or the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) cash-for-work program that can enable the employment of local residents, thus, helping provide livelihood to their communities.
“These types of initiatives have already been done before and they just need to be expanded. In Samar, DSWD, via the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), empowered 4Ps beneficiary families to build new tertiary irrigation canals,” she said.
“In Iloilo, the Department of Labor and Employment facilitated labor-intensive projects that built drainages to protect flood-prone agricultural and residential areas,” she added.
Hontiveros also said the NDRRMC can supplement the quick reaction funds of other agencies so greater funding may be devoted to the repair of irrigation systems, roads, and other agriculture infrastructure.
“Kailangan nating kumilos ng agaran at malakihan upang matulungan ang mga magsasaka na nagpapakain sa buong bansa (we need to act in large-scale immediately to help farmers who are feeding the country). They are the key to ending this food crisis,” she added. Zac Sarao, Trainee
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