The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) questions the statement made by the camp of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte regarding their goal of achieving rice self-sufficiency “within two years”.
According to Peter Laviña, Duterte’s spokesperson, they will do this by intensifying rice production, developing idle lands, and modernizing the agricultural sector. Moreover, the current policy of rice importation will continue until the perceived self-sufficiency has been met.
However, PNFSP’s Executive Director, Estrella Catarata, believes otherwise. According to her, “the upcoming Duterte administration will surely fail in its pronouncement of rice self-sufficiency, similar to the outgoing Aquino government. This is because rice self-sufficiency will only be possible through genuine agrarian reform, wherein landless peasant farmers can finally own the land they till. Without it, all planned agricultural programs will be in vain.”
Catarata further adds that the Department of Agriculture usually marketed and promoted the practice of rice production intensification with aggressive usage of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides. In fact, these have proven to be detrimental to soil fertility, the environment, and on people’s health, especially for the farmers who use them.”
Instead, Catarata advocates sustainable agricultural practices as the best alternative to the prevailing farming system started by former President Marcos’ Green Revolution. The former makes use of organic materials as farm inputs to enrich soil fertility and thus make rice and other crops, more cost – effective, productive and safe for consumption. This practice is also in harmony with nature and a proven adaptation and mitigation strategy in these times of Climate Change.
“Millions of Filipinos, especially the farmers and rural poor, voted for Duterte during the recent elections because of his promise that ‘change is coming’. If he is indeed sincere in changing the miserable conditions of the peasantry, genuine agrarian reform must thus be his priority program coupled with sufficient and sustainable agriculture support services. And then we can be sure that rice self-sufficiency will be attained before the end of his term”, concluded Catarata.###