SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go urged the government to immediately act on the rising prices of pork and other food commodities and boost the country’s food security amid the current pandemic.

“Kailangan natin itong solusyonan, lalong-lalo na sa panahon ngayon na marami pong mga kababayan natin ang nawalan ng trabaho. Walang pambili ng pagkain ang mga ‘yan, tataas pa ang presyo, mas lalong mahihirapan ang mga kababayan natin,” he said.

Go has been prodding the government to prioritize three important aspects towards COVID-19 recovery: (1) address hunger; (2) acquire sufficient, safe and effective vaccines for all Filipinos with utmost priority to the poor and vulnerable sectors as well as frontliners; (3) and provide more economic opportunities through jobs and other forms of livelihood.

“Ipaglalaban po natin ang tatlong importanteng mga adhikain na ito sa loob at labas ng Senado — ang pagsugpo sa gutom; ang pagkakaroon ng sapat, ligtas, at epektibong bakuna; at ang pagpapalakas ng ekonomiya at kabuhayan ng bawat Pilipino,” he said.

“Tulad nga ng sabi ng Pangulo, no one should be left behind towards recovery,” he added.

To address the concern amid widely reported increase in prices of several meat products, Go has renewed his appeal for the Executive Department to issue an Executive Order to impose a ceiling on the prices of pork and chicken in the market.

“Muli po akong umaapela sa Executive Department na pag-aralan ang pag-i-impose ng price ceiling sa karneng baboy at manok sa bansa upang mapigilan ang tuluy-tuloy na pagtaas ng mga presyo nito,” Go said.

“Kung maaari po, ang gobyerno na po ang pumasan sa mga problemang ito, huwag lang po mapunta sa ordinaryong mamamayan ang dagdag na pasakit ng mahal na bilihin,” he added.

The Department of Agriculture is one with Go in recommending price ceilings to prevent further price hikes in the country. It seeks to prevent opportunistic businesses from illegally manipulating the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities, thus helping the Filipino consumers who are still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the DA also suggested utilizing its annual Buffer Fund under Republic Act No. 7581 to subsidize distribution costs of pork and chicken, effectively ensuring reasonable prices in the market.

Under RA No. 7581, the DA may use its Buffer Fund to purchase, import, or stockpile any basic necessity or prime commodity, devise ways and means of distributing them for sale at reasonable prices in areas where there is shortage of supply or a need to effect changes in its prevailing price.

Furthermore, the DA has proposed the tripling of the Minimum Access Volume on pork imports, augmenting local pork supply and, thus, keeping prices more stable.

For a more long-term approach to food security in the country, the DA has also recently launched “ONE DA: A Holistic Approach to Agriculture and Fisheries Transformation” which serves as “an integrated framework with twelve (12) key strategies to accelerate the transformation towards a modern and industrialized Philippine agriculture through an inclusive approach.”

Go has expressed his support to the proposed interventions by the DA, saying, “Kailangang patuloy na ipatupad ang mga long-term food security solutions, katulad ng ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ program at iba pa.”

Go, then, expressed optimism that as the economy slowly re-opens, the issues of hunger and joblessness will also gradually be addressed.

“Sa dahan-dahang pagbubukas ng ekonomiya at sa pagpapatuloy ng mga proyekto ng gobyerno sa ilalim ng 2021 budget, inaasahan nating mabibigyan muli ng maayos na kabuhayan ang ating mga kababayan para maiahon sila sa hirap,” Go said.

To address the issue of price increase induced by animal-borne diseases, such as African Swine Fever, President Duterte has issued Executive Order No. 105 which created the National Task Force on Animal-Borne Diseases. This seeks to undertake activities to prevent the entry of animal-borne diseases, control their spread and address other related issues.

Duterte also signed Executive Order No. 123 modifying the rates of import duty on certain agricultural products under section 1611 of Republic Act No. 10863, otherwise known as the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. Said EO, in effect, retained the reduced five percent tariff rates imposed on mechanically deboned meat of chicken and turkey, a key ingredient of low-priced meat products often consumed by ordinary Filipinos.

“This is most welcome and I support it. This will have a huge impact on keeping prices low by keeping the tariffs low and preventing any inflationary effect,” Go said previously.

A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations in November 2020 revealed that an estimated four million families reported involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months prior to the study. The number, though, is lower than the previous data gathered by SWS in September of last year where some 7.6 million reported involuntary hunger due to the pandemic.

“Hangad nating merong sapat at masustansyang pagkain sa hapag ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino. That is why I keep pushing concerned agencies to implement immediate at long-term programs to address hunger in the country,” Go said.

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