DA, NIA urged to prioritize recovery of typhoon-hit agri areas to address rising food costs

Robie de Guzman   •   January 26, 2021   •   630

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on concerned government agencies to make “a big push” for the recovery of agriculture “food baskets” that were devastated by calamities last year to help address supply shortages and rising food costs in the country.

In a statement, Hontiveros pointed out that price control and monitoring measures are not enough to address spiking commodity prices.

“Hindi lang price control at monitoring ang mga paraan para maampat ang mabilis na pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin. Mas mabilis na bababa ang presyo ng gulay, prutas, karne at ibang pagkain kung agad matutulungan ng pamahalaan na mapuno ang mga “food baskets”. Kailangang maibalik sa normal ang kanilang productivity levels,” she said.

The senator said the government should particularly provide adequate shelter and food assistance to vital agricultural supply areas until the first harvests arrive in summer, particularly in areas like the Northern Luzon and the Bicol Region which were heavily affected by a spate of typhoons in 2020.

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 P 5 billion damaged or destroyed infrastructure.

Likewise, the Bicol Region lost P629 million worth of crops and P2.3 billion in infrastructure, she added.

“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,” she said.

“Kailangan natin silang tulungan para sila ay muling agad makabalik sa pagtatanim, pagsasaka at pagaalaga ng mga hayop,” she added.

Hontiveros said that among the immediate actions which can be taken by the government, mostly the Department of Agriculture (DA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA), and local government units, is the repair of drainages and irrigation systems that were damaged during the floods, storms and mudflows.

The NIA, along with LGUs, should also immediately identify and develop ‘shovel-ready’ irrigation and farm repair projects which could be implemented at the soonest.

She suggested that workers for such projects be contracted via the ‘pakyaw’ system or the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) cash-for-work program which can enable the hiring of local residents, thus helping provide a livelihood to their communities.

Hontiveros likewise said that the NDRRMC can supplement the quick reaction funds (QRFs) 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. They are the key to ending this food crisis,” she said.

Philippines to export more mangoes, pineapples to US

Robie de Guzman   •   August 26, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — More Philippine-grown mangoes and pineapples will soon be exported to the United States, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced.

The DA said the development comes after its Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) reached a deal during a virtual meeting held on August 12.

“Expanding the export market of Philippine pineapples and mangoes in the US and other countries will not only enhance our national economy, but more importantly, provide increased incomes to thousands of farmers and their families in pineapple- and mango-producing provinces nationwide,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement.

The recent agreement between the APHIS and BPI could dramatically increase the country’s exports of pineapples and resume shipments of mangoes to the US via additional ports of entry, he added.

The Philippines currently exports fresh pineapples to the US through Guam, Commonwealth of Marianas Island, and North Atlantic regions. From 2013 to July 15, 2021, exports amounted to only 346,190 kilograms.

The country previously exported fresh mangoes to the US, from 2005 to 2008, totaling 386,099 kilograms, all produced in Guimaras Island, the DA added.

The DA said USDA-APHIS accepted evidence that the Philippines’ main export pineapple variety is not a host to the oriental fruit fly.

The fruit pest, known scientifically as Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel), is very destructive and often finds its way into the US, sometimes triggering wide-scale eradication programs.

The Philippines may start shipping pineapples to various US markets before year-end, the DA said.

Senate seeks probe on alleged DOH mismanagement of P67-B COVID-19 fund

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate wants to look into the alleged mismanagement of funds of the Department of Health (DOH) allotted for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

After the recent assessment of the Commission on Audit (COA), senators are seeking to investigate the deficiencies on the DOH’s P67.32 billion COVID-19 budget.

COA attributed the said deficiencies to the health department’s non-compliance with pertinent laws and regulations, including the use of funds not for the intended purpose.

Senator Grace Poe said this proves to be counter-beneficial to the government’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease at a crucial time.

“These funds were provided to strengthen the agency’s health resources in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the implementation deficiencies denied our countrymen their right to health at a time when it is most needed,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate should “particularly look into the P3.97 billion worth of contracts and projects with procedural deficiencies in the procurement process and lacking documentation.”

“It is imperative that we examine closely the DOH’s use of billions of pesos in COVID-19 response funds given the findings of the COA and the corruption allegations that hounded the agency’s procurement of various COVID-19 equipment and supplies,” Drilon said.

Drilon said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III’s ineptitude is sabotaging the government’s response to the pandemic.

“While we see a shortage of beds, PPEs, ventilators, oxygen tanks, the DOH incurred P24.64 billion in unobligated funds that could have augmented our medical resources and paid on time the risk allowance of our medical frontliners,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the country needs commitment and competence from the DOH leadership to ensure every peso budgeted and allocated would save lives.

“Given the COA findings, the DOH seems to be depriving thousands of Filipinos of healthcare services in the face of national emergency and it is nothing short of criminal,” she said. AAC

DA: Metro Manila’s supply of agricultural products enough for ECQ

Marje Pelayo   •   August 5, 2021


MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) assures Metro Manila has enough supply of agricultural products for the duration of the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

According to Agriculture Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista, the agency will mobilize rolling stores during ECQ to bring farmers’ produce near the affected communities.

“Mayroon na po tayo ngayong mga truck na may dalang gulay. Ikino-coordinate din po namin ito sa mga local government units para at least yung areas, barangays who need the most ma-cater po natin ang kanilang pangangailangan,” Evangelista said.

Specifically, 10 Kadiwa trucks will be visiting various locations in Metro Manila where consumers may be able to buy basic farm products like chicken, pork, vegetables, and rice among others.

Products are available for wholesale or retail, the official said.

The DA assures all products in their Kadiwa stores are way cheaper than those available in public markets.

Also, on-site Kadiwa stores located at the DA Central office compound and other areas in Metro Manila will remain open.

Meanwhile, transporter of goods or delivery services especially of perishable items are still allowed under ECQ provided they present their food pass which can be obtained from DA.

“We have our database so yung mga na-issue-han last year na nasa database naman po mas mabilis po maiisyuhan ngayon in case nawala nila yung food pass nila. Kung hindi naman po nila nawala ay valid po yan,” Evangelista stressed.

The DA said that although the supply is enough, the prices may vary depending on the prevailing weather condition.

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