Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Investments in agriculture key to Phl’s rice self-sufficiency -- Enrile

PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, April 3, 2013-The Philippines won’t be able to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2014 unless the government put more investments in agriculture and further increase the number of hectares of irrigated lands.
          United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidate Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile stressed this point as he suggested that the Aquino administration follow the Thailand example in providing irrigation to farmlands to increase rice production and eventually rice self-sufficiency.
          Enrile, a member of the House committee on agriculture, said he has serious doubts that the country can achieve its Rice Self-Sufficiency Program (RSSP), originally set this 2013 to 2014.
          “Not with this present set-up because of the lack of investments in agriculture,” he said.
          He cited the case of Thailand who, he said, had considerably less population than the Philippines and practically the same land area but has almost 10 times the number of hectares of irrigated lands compared with the country.
          “Thailand has 65 million people and we have 90 million. But they made massive investments in agriculture. They have 10 million hectares of irrigated lands while we only have 1.4 million hectares. It’s no wonder they have left us behind, we have so many undeveloped and underdeveloped lands,” he said.
          Enrile recalled that in the 80s, the country used to be a rice exporter, something which the Department of Agriculture said the government could achieve by 2013.
          “Well and good. Actually, it’s easy to say we are a rice exporter. We can simply accumulate our rice produce in a warehouse then ship them out and say we have exported. But the question is : are we a net rice exporter?” he asked.
          He said only last week, the government came out with an announcement that it would be exporting 180,000 metric tons of rice which is proof that it is far from reaching the level of self-sufficiency as far as rice is concerned.
          Enrile also noted that the country does not have a national food requirement plan. He said that 150 years ago, human species come from 10,000 different varieties of food.
          “After World War 2, when he industrialized, there are now only 150 different varieties of food,” he said.
Enrile, whose campaign pitch is “Maraming Pagkain, Murang Pagkain (Plenty of Food, Cheap Food),” said he has filed in May 2011 House Bill 4626, also known as Food for Filipinos First (FFFF), which intends to make the agriculture sector a key mover in providing food for the poor and middle class.  (Manny Galvez)

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