Filtered By: Money

FAO, lawmakers team up to tackle PHL food security, nutrition

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched on Wednesday a pilot alliance with Philippine lawmakers to tackle food security and nutrition issues through legislation.

Meant to “place the issue of food security and nutrition at the highest level of the legislative and political agenda,” the FAO Legislative Advisory Group-Philippines (FLAG-PH) is part of a larger effort to convene a similar alliance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Sharing good laws and policies is a top priority in addressing food and hunger issues, Kaori Abe, program officer for partnership and resource mobilization at FAO’s regional office, said.

Similar FAO partnerships began in Latin America and later in Africa and Europe, but only one national parliamentary alliance in Asia—that of Japan in 2017—has been established.

“This is where we want to catch up … to have stronger engagement in Asia as well,” Abe noted.

Senators Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Sonny Angara, who leads the Senate Local Government and Ways and Means Committees attended the launch. 

Representatives DV Savellano, who chairs the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle; Peter Calderon, who chairs the Global WTO Committee; and Bernadette Herrera-Dy, who chairs the House Public Information Committee, were also present. Senator Loren Legarda sent a representative.
Some 1.3 million Filipino families, or 8.3 million individuals, were “unable to meet their basic food needs,” FAO said in a separate statement, citing 2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Another study in 2016 by the nonprofit group Save the Children showed the country loses at least P328 billion a year from the impact of childhood stunting on workforce productivity and education as a result of undernutrition.

Villar cited laws forwarded by the Senate Agriculture Committee, including the National Food Authority Reorganization Act, the abolition of irrigation fees for farmers tilling up to a maximum of eight hectares, and the declaration of agriculture smuggling as economic sabotage.

She also cited farm tourism development, which provides for the creation of farm schools that can be accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

A Senate committee will start tackling next week a measure on rice tariffs proposed by Senator Ralph Recto, Villar said.

Angara called agriculture the “forgotten child of the Philippines,” claiming it was sidelined, “struggling” to grow while the government touted economic development through the expansion of the business process outsourcing and services industries in the last several years.

“That truly is the great tragedy of our economy,” he said

“We forgot about this one very important child of ours—it’s agriculture. I think it’s not too late, obviously, and the potential ... Imagine if we reap the rewards,” Angara noted.
Even if the Philippines is largely agricultural, the country continues to be a rice importer.

“Agriculture is at a nexus of so many other subsidiary ... issues. We’re talking about climate change, disaster reduction. We talk about food security, we talk about poverty reduction, rural development, raising healthy families…” Angara said.

During the first consultative meeting of FLAG-PH which took place Wednesday, FAO parliamentary expert Michael Planas presented an outline of pending priority bills.

Sectoral and geocentric, or area-based, issues will also be identified in future meetings, said Planas.

But Villar said passing such bills “will amount to nothing” if not “effectively implemented.”

“It’s not anymore about just passing these bills. We have to really work on program which can help the people,” she said, claiming it is more important to “empower” stakeholders through actions from both government and the private sector.

Villar herself is touting a farm school initiative across the country. “These are theoretical issues. The more practical issues we have to discuss,” she said.

FAO celebrated its 40th anniversary in the Philippines in 2017. — VDS, GMA News