PBBM ‘open’ to declaration of state of calamity on food crisis–PCAFI

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is “open” to the possibility of declaring a state of emergency or calamity to “immediately” address the food security problems of the country, an industry group said.

Leaders of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) recently met with Marcos Jr., who is concurrently the agriculture secretary, and presented the group’s recommendations to address the problems of the agriculture sector.

One of the recommendations of the group is the Presidential declaration of a state of emergency or calamity on food security to allow Marcos Jr. to intervene in the allocation of local government units’ (LGUs) funds toward boosting domestic food production.

PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said Marcos Jr.  was receptive to the various recommendations of the group, including the declaration of a state of emergency or calamity on food security.

Fausto explained that it “might” be “necessary” for Marcos Jr. to make such a declaration to “encourage” and “direct” LGUs to allocate some of their funds for food production.

Fausto added that the President has requested his legal team to review the possibility of making such a declaration and address “sensitivities” surrounding the matter.

These sensitivities, Fausto explained, include priorities of the LGUs, particularly those that are not in rural areas, and the budget making process of the LGUs.

“All our recommendations were okay to him. From what I understand, he (Marcos Jr.) has requested his legal team to review [our proposal to declare a state of emergency or calamity] because of the sensitivities involved,” Fausto said during the group’s maiden PCAFihan session at Victorino’s Restaurant on Friday.

Fausto said the declaration of the state of calamity is among the few options that the President has to immediately mobilize necessary financial resources to ensure the country’s food security.

“He realized that and patango-tango siya. He is very cautious and he will study [everything] carefully but he understands the urgency,” Fausto said.

The BusinessMirror broke the story recently that industry leaders were urging Marcos Jr. to declare a nationwide state of calamity on food security problems to allow him to promptly address the country’s food supply challenges. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/07/04/declare-a-state-of-calamityon-food-crisis-pbbm-urged/).

Fausto emphasized that Marcos’s number one problem in addressing agricultural issues is the lack of funding or budget, especially for this year. Fausto claimed that the government’s budget for the whole year may have been already obligated given the nearly 86 percent obligation rate in end-April.

Latest data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that as of end-April the agency’s total allotment releases has reached P4.3 billion, which is about 85.6 percent of the P5.023 obligation program for 2022.

“The problem is that the treasury is empty. The national budget for 2022 was almost, if not, totally obligated and spent before July,” Fausto said.

The group also proposed that Marcos Jr. issue a directive to Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PhilGuarrantee) to “provide credit guarantee” to farmers, which would help them in accessing available credit portfolios in both state-owned and private banks.

“Our food producers need the state guarantee because they cannot go to the banks without collateral. With the guarantee from PhilGuarantee, the banks may perhaps be able to lend to our food producers and not see agriculture as a risky business,” Fausto said.

“This money with PhilGuarantee should be given back to the farmers and food producers so that they will have access to credit. [Marcos Jr.] can do this by giving a marching order to PhilGuarantee. There is about P1 trillion available for lending for agri-agra,” Fausto added.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes