Fisherfolk, farmers and other stakeholders tackle food insecurity in the face of inflation and climate change

The government needs a coordinated plan in place to ensure the country’s food and nutrition security. This was the recurring theme in the presentations and arguments during the roundtable discussions held today to tackle food and nutrition insecurity in the face of inflation and extreme weather events threatening the country. Discussions also highlighted the need to protect Filipinos’ rights to access quality, nutritious and safe food, especially the rights of farmers and fishers to sustainable livelihoods and rural development. Sector representatives emphasized that Importing rice, fish, meat, and vegetables will not address these issues.
“Food is a basic human right and the government is tasked by the Philippine Constitution to protect that right,” said Hazel Tanchuling, executive director of Rice Watch Action Network (R1).  “Ironically, the government is not doing its part.  Rice importation and trade liberalization will not address this self-inflected crisis.  Capitalizing on the increasing food prices to push for rice tariffication and the abolition of NFA is an evil plot. The government must recognize that there is a ‘food crisis’ largely because of  the lack of leadership in food, agriculture and fisheries governance” Tanchuling added.

R1, Greenpeace Philippines, NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR), and the Peoples Food Movement (PFM), organized “Inflation in Focus: A Roundtable with Food Growers” today, to better understand the issues from the perspective of the country’s farmers and fisherfolks.

Representatives from Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Tambuyong Development Center, United Broiler Raiser Association, and the University of the Philippines School of Economics, joined the discussions on the present crisis, and offered solutions shaped by their perspectives.

According to a recent Social Weather Stations Survey, 2.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger in the second quarter of 2018. Hence, the need to implement comprehensive sectoral plans to address food and nutrition security of communities and the most vulnerable sectors. There are already initiatives along this direction, but the groups point out that government needs to put this in high priority.

In the following days, a looming super-typhoon, Ompong (international name: Mangkhut), is expected to hit the country, bringing with it the threat to lives and destruction of properties, farms and livelihoods.  Rather than stop-gap measures such as importation, the organizations are proposing long-term solutions.  The Philippines, being a highly vulnerable country to climate change, as well as oil and market fluctuations, should adopt a strong strategy to strengthen its own food production in a sustainable manner, the groups point out.

“We should not rely on food importation because it does not guarantee food sovereignty: our right to have safe, healthy, culturally appropriate and ecologically-produced food. In fact, it threatens it, especially for our local farmers and fisherfolk. Food importation also contributes to climate change with carbon emissions from transport and from the use of fossil fuel-based farm inputs to produce food. Importation also poses risks on our food safety as the country’s implementation of food safety standards and regulations is doubtful,” said Virginia Benosa-Llorin, campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.

Llorin added that the government must direct its efforts to invest in climate-resilient ecological farming,  “one that maximizes the sustainable use of local natural resources while minimizing the need for fossil fuel based inputs.”

“Government needs to address the overfishing problem of capture fisheries, modernize the aquaculture sector, and manage the small pelagic fish resources of the major fishing grounds, in order to sustain fish supply while improving fisheries’ governance. It needs to ensure fisheries management structures of the major fishing grounds are in place. This is to be consistent with the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan for 2016-2020. We challenge the BFAR and the DA to implement this to ensure fisheries’ sustainability, food security, and sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities,” said Dinna Umengan, Executive Director Tambuyog Development Center, a member of NGOs for Fisheries Reform.

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