Sen. Cynthia Villar said the agriculture department should rethink its policy of importation, stressing the danger it poses to the livelihood of small farmers and fisherfolk.
Villar made this statement after the Department of Agriculture approved the importation of 17,000 metric tons of galunggong from China, in a bid to suppress rising price of fish.
“Importation should not be our automatic reaction to problems besetting the agriculture sector. We should work for long-term solutions that will make us self-sufficient and competitive,” Villar said.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said importation of galunggong does not solve the problem of the dwindling fish stock.
“Why is there a need to import galunggong? Can we not find another replacement for galunggong?,” Villar said, adding that protein can also be obtained from consuming other local catch such as bangus, hasa-hasa, ayungin and many others.
Villar also proposed for the imposition of price ceiling to stop the spike in the prices of goods and to mount a no-nonsense campaign against cartelization and smuggling.
“Alam naman natin na may kartel sa Pilipinas at sila ang nagkokontrol sa presyuhan ng mga pangunahing bilihin natin. We already passed a law against agricultural smuggling, we also created the Philippine Competition Commission but sadly, walang napaparusahan at nasasampulan ng batas,” Villar said.
Villar also stressed the need to implement “measures that will make the produce of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk competitive in this age of liberalization.”
“We need intervention from government that will provide an alternative source of income for fishermen when we close the fishing grounds and allow the catch to recover. To encourage inland production of fish, we need to strengthen our fingerlings distribution program,” Villar said.
In the case of rice farmers, Villar said mechanization will substantially reduce the cost of producing palay and farming with inbred seeds will improve the yield from 4 to 6 metric tons per hectare.
In the rice tariffication bill Villar will be sponsoring in the Senate, a P10-billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund sourced from the national budget will be created to bankroll programs designed to improve farmers’ productivity.