Former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol on Thursday said he has been picked to serve as food security adviser to incoming National Security Adviser (NSA) Clarita Carlos.
“Yes [I was picked]. Actually, si Secretary Clarita Carlos kaibigan kong matagal na [has been my friend for so long]. She was my consultant when I was DA Secretary,” she said in an interview on Dobol B TV.
According to Piñol, he agrees with Carlos that food security should be considered as a national security concern.
“Food security is an important component of national security,” he said.
Piñol was appointed Agriculture secretary in 2017 but resigned in 2019 after a supposed conflict with the Duterte administration’s economic team.
According to him, the looming food crisis is already felt by the people.
He said there is a threat to food security due to Thailand and Vietnam’s limited volume of rice exportation and the increasing price of wheat.
Piñol said the Philippines was close to reaching rice self-sufficiency in 2017 but it was hindered by the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, which allows more importation.
“Nandoon na sana tayo [We were almost there], 2017, for the first time, sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, umani tayo ng mataas na ani [we had the highest harvest], 19.28 million metric tons,” he said.
“Unfortunately, sinagasaan tayo ng [we were hit by] rice tariffication,” he added.
According to him, the country had a rice shortage of 700,000 metric tons in 2017. The country is now importing 3 million metric tons of rice to fill the supply gap, he added.
Piñol said he recommended a rice sufficiency strategy roadmap that would focus on irrigation, the use of high quality hybrid and inbred seeds, fertilizers, and the setting up of “good price.”
He said half of the rice fields could be harvested only once a year due to lack of irrigation, which caused low national average yield per hectare.
Before leaving his post, Piñol said he already organized a P40-billion loan from Israel to build a solar-powered irrigation system, including technical support, that can cover 500,000 hectares.
“Anong nangyari? Nandoon, natutulog sa [National Economic and Development Authority - Investment Coordination Committee] yung offer ng Israel na P40 billion na pautuang,” he said.
(What happened? The P40 billion loan offer of Israel is just sleeping in NEDA - ICC.)
According to Piñol, building the project would only take three months, which he said is faster compared to the construction of traditional irrigation from dams.
He added that rice should have good pricing because profitability motivates productivity. —KBK, GMA News