Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to take more proactive measures to address the state of agriculture in the Philippines as the prices of rice continue to remain high despite a price cap imposed by Malacañang.
“Step up nang kaunti,” Cayetano told Senate reporters at a press conference on September 15, 2023. “[Dapat mag]-shape up ang agriculture (department) kasi from the first year [up to now] panay agriculture na ang mga issues.”
The independent senator praised President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for being a sincere Agriculture Secretary intent on improving the food situation in the country, but he stressed that the DA’s officials should not rely on the Chief Executive for solutions.
He said the agriculture department needs to engage in “full staff work” and explore multiple options to address the problems.
Cayetano attributed the increase in the price of rice to various factors such as erratic weather conditions globally that have affected rice supply as well as Russia’s change in its grain export deal with Ukraine which has indirectly impacted food prices worldwide.
He also pointed to India’s announcement in August that it would ban the export of rice, which he said should have triggered DA officials to take steps to secure rice supplies elsewhere.
“So noon pa lang nung pinag-uusapan ‘yan, may alarm bells na dapat sa agri department. Dapat dalawa, tatlo, lima, anim na options ang binigay nila kay Pangulong Marcos, but they tried to make him do it on his own,” he said.
While he commended the President’s efforts in securing rice imports from Vietnam, Cayetano said the DA and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should have engaged with Vietnam earlier, without waiting for high-level discussions.
He urged the DA to seek long-term solutions to stabilize food prices, emphasizing that temporary measures may not address the root causes of the problem.
He said among these measures is the outsourcing of expertise from countries like Japan and China, where rice holds cultural significance, to develop a rice sufficiency roadmap for the Philippines.
“Kailangan ng long-term na solution here. We support him (the President) there but hopefully sa budget hearing, ma-explain na ng Agriculture Department kung ano [ang mga plans na] ito,” he said.
“In the budget hearing that’s one department I’d like to listen into and really just encourage y’ung mga taga-Agriculture na Presidente ang Secretary n’yo. Magpakitang-gilas kayo,” he added.