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Position Paper on HB 4611: An Act Creating the National Food Security Council, Appropriating Funds T

The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) agrees with the statement of both bills that many Filipinos are currently experiencing food insecurity. PNFSP also agrees to the explanatory note of HB 4611 which states that several factors contribute to food insecurity, namely “shrinking agricultural lands, degradation of food resource bases and the looming threat of decimation of food ecosystems and biodiversity caused by extractive activities and climate change”.

However, PNFSP firmly believes that the problem of food insecurity cannot be merely solved through legislation, rationalization of the various government agencies concerned with agriculture and food, creation of a National Food Security Council, or even through the strengthening of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM).

First, the Department of Agriculture has been in existence since 1898. Yet, it has failed to address the needs of Filipino farmers, and instead has been used as a conduit for corruption such as the Fertilizer Fund Scam. In addition, the Department of Agrarian Reform has also been existence for more than 20 years. However, it is still unsuccessful in guaranteeing land ownership to poor farmers, evident in the numerous cases of landgrabbing and existence of vast plantations all over the country. In addition, the PAFSAM was created in 2014, but no tangible improvement in the problem of hunger or malnutrition was made from then until present.

Also, the proposal of HB 5210 to create a “Food Security Fund in the amount of 20 billion to be sourced from PAGCOR and PCSO” was indicated without basis or explanation as to how the total was estimated. This lump sum appropriation will only lead to further corruption.

Thus, instead of focusing on the creation of a National Food Security Council, lawmakers should first address the root cause of food insecurity in the country.

First and foremost is the issue of landlessness. At present, there is pending bill in Congress called the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) which the congressmen can review, thoroughly study, discuss, and perhaps support its passage in the interest of rural development.

Second, the Agreement on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization should be revoked. The import-dependent, export-oriented policy spells death to poor local farmers who cannot compete with cheaper imported agricultural products. Congress should instead pass a law providing subsidies to farmers such as free irrigation services and construction of pre and post-harvest facilities.

Third, organic or sustainable agriculture should be strictly implemented nationwide. The DA should no longer patronize hybrid seeds, petrochemical fertilizers and insecticides, and ban the production of genetically modified organisms which are harmful to peoples’ health and on the environment. In this era of climate change, when agriculture and food security is gravely threatened, the government should recognize the fact that small-scale sustainable agriculture is the most effective adaptation and mitigation measure to climate change.

PNFSP fervently hopes that our honorable lawmakers will re-evaluate their proposed bills and seriously consider our stated recommendations in order to sincerely address the problem of food insecurity experienced by millions of Filipinos every day. ###

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