Marcos lays out plans to ensure food security
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. outlined on Monday his administration’s grand plan to secure the country’s food supply, focusing on expanding the number of government-backed food stores, boosting agricultural production, and pursuing a relentless campaign against smugglers and hoarders of agricultural goods whom he blamed for the escalation in the prices of basic food items.
During his State of the Nation Address (Sona) marking the end of his first year in office, Marcos said the “Kadiwa stores” — centers that directly link farmers to consumers thus leading to higher incomes for producers and lower prices for buyers — were essential in bringing down the prices of rice, meat, fish, vegetable and sugar.
The Kadiwa program was first introduced during the term of his father, Ferdinand Sr., and was revived in 2022 as part of his strategies as concurrent head of the Department of Agriculture to make basic food items more affordable to the masses.
“Malaking tulong ang mga Kadiwa stores, na ating muling binuhay at inilunsad. Ang layunin ng Kadiwa ay pag-ugnayin ang magsasaka at ang mamimili. Walang iba pang namamagitan. Walang dagdag na gastos at patong,” Marcos said during his televised national address.
[Translation: “Kadiwa stores, which we have revived and launched, have been a huge help. The purpose of Kadiwa is to connect farmers and consumers. No middlemen. No added cost and markup.”]
The President said they launched more than 700 Kadiwa stores nationwide which benefited 1.8 million families.
“The results were good so we will expand Kadiwa to the whole country,” he said in Filipino.
The President also reiterated his commitment to go after smugglers and hoarders of agricultural products, vowing to prosecute these criminals behind high prices of basic goods.
“Napapahamak hindi lamang ang mga magsasaka, kundi tayo na ring mga mamimili. Kaya hindi natin papayagan ang ganitong kalakaran. Bilang na ang mga araw ng mga smugglers at hoarders na iyan ,” he said.
[Translation: “It’s not just the farmers who get in trouble, but also us consumers. So, we will not allow this trend. The days of these smugglers and hoarders are numbered.”]
The bravado failed to impress a farmer’s group that instead urged the Marcos administration to actually put these smugglers and hoarders behind bars.
“These smugglers and hoarders need to actually be brought to justice this year because they are the main reasons why the prices of agricultural products are high,” said Jayson Cainglet, executive director of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).
Danilo Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc., agreed, saying that “stopping and penalizing smugglers, hoarders, and price manipulators are necessary and a must for the government in order to protect farmers, fair trade, and the economy.”
Fausto and Cainglet lamented that to this day, none of the supposed smugglers and hoarders had been found guilty.
According to Cainglet, evidence presented by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) during congressional hearings were often deemed insufficient, thus halting further investigations.
“None have proceeded beyond the preliminary investigations. All [of the cases] have been dismissed,” he said.
Nevertheless, Sinag welcomed the proposed amendments to the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act that lawmakers claimed would help the President’s drive against “unfair practices that hurt consumers and local farmers alike.”
Like Sinag, Marikina Rep. and House appropriations panel vice chair Stella Quimbo cheered Mr. Marcos’ stand against smuggling and hoarding.
“It is a manifestation of his conviction that smuggling, hoarding, cartels are huge problems and that curbing these will have a huge impact on food inflation. These have been systemic, decades-old problems. First time, as far as I recall that a President has made such strong pronouncements.”
Marcos also pointed out in his Sona that the biggest problem that confronted his young administration was inflation, with global events such Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic leading to high prices of basic commodities.
Nevertheless, it has been decelerating for five straight months, putting the Marcos administration closer to its target of containing inflation to between 2 and 4 percent.
Marcos stressed that inflation was “stabilizing” and “moving in the right direction.”
This bolsters his claim that the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals remained strong.
He touted the Philippines’ economic growth in 2022, his first year in office, saying that the country achieved its fastest growth rate in 46 years despite the lingering impact of the pandemic.
“While the global prospects were bleak, our economy posted a 7.6-percent growth in 2022 — our highest growth rate in 46 years. For the first quarter of the year, our growth registered at 6.4 percent. It remains within our target of 6 to 7 percent for 2023. We are still considered to be among the fastest-growing economies in the Asian region and the world,” he said.
Marcos also said that higher revenue collections will be critical in his administration’s bid to boost public investments, citing that they project the government’s tax and revenues by 2028 to increase up to 16.9 percent and 17.3 percent, respectively.
From January to May, the Bureau of Internal Revenue said it posted record collection amounting to P1.05 trillion, an increase of almost 10 percent from last year, while the BOC collected P476 billion during the first seven months of the year, an increase of 7.4 percent during the same period in 2022.
However, it must be noted that the Philippine economy had barely recovered what it lost at the height of the devastating pandemic in 2020 with gross domestic product growing to P19.94 trillion in 2022, just 3 percent higher than the prepandemic level in 2019 of P19.38 trillion, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Think tank Ibon Foundation also pointed out that while the inflation rate indeed lowered, this only meant that prices “only rose slower recently.”
In reality, the group said rice prices, for example, rose from P42 to P45, more than double Mr. Marcos’ famous promise to bring down rice prices to P20 a kilo. Indeed, almost all commodities — onions, garlic, sugar, meat, fish and vegetable prices, water, electricity, and transport rates — increased under his administration, Ibon claimed.
“[Marcos] confirms his position as the country’s premier superspreader of hyperbolic and fantastic narratives, after a tedious Sona that struggled to give even flimsiest evidence of any progress,” said Ibon executive director Sonny Africa.
The president of the country’s largest business organization, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said they were “generally satisfied” with the plans outlined by Mr. Marcos during his Sona, noting, in particular, the plans to bring in more renewable energy investments and recalibrating the K-12 curriculum.