President to give up DA post when food crisis over
DAVOS — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is ready to relinquish his concurrent post as chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and appoint a full-time secretary as soon as he has sorted out the mess that is now causing a shortfall in basic food supply like sugar and onions.
Smarting from the sugar crisis that erupted last year, Marcos has vowed to maintain a two-month buffer stock to ward off speculation that leads to volatile prices.
He is also looking at “some very good ideas,” including the digitalization of the Bureau of Customs to curb rampant smuggling, one of the culprits behind spiraling prices of onion and other agricultural products.
Once a suitable system is in place to bring down food inflation in the country, Marcos said he would step down as agriculture secretary and appoint someone who can handle this full-time.
“When this is fixed, when we have the systems in place, yes, yes,” he told journalists on Sunday aboard Philippine Airlines 001 en route to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum meetings.
In a meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) last week, the president said the present system isn’t working and that government agencies must do something to decisively address rampant smuggling.
Marcos ordered reforms in the bureaucracy to curb smuggling, lower logistics costs, and ensure the ease of doing business.
“I think the digitalization of the Bureau of Customs is going to be an important, important part of that,” he said.
But for the president, production is still “the most important facet of this whole problem.”
“We have to go back to the sugar industry. We have to go back to the onion growers and help them,” he said.
At present, he noted that the country was dependent on imports because of insufficient production, a problem that was exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I’ll be very candid with you. It’s difficult to ascertain whether or not we need to import because depending on who you are talking to, like in onions, some will say we don’t need to import, some will say we need to,” he said.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JORDEENE B. LAGARE IN MANILA
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