Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday urged government agencies, particularly the Department of Justice (DOJ), to act decisively against rice smugglers following the President’s strong warning in his State of the Nation Address last month.
“Ginawa na ito (strong warning) ni Pangulong Marcos during the SONA. ‘Di ba sinabi niya, ‘Bilang na ang araw niyong mga smugglers,’” Cayetano said in a media interview on August 7.
The independent senator discussed the issue in the context of the West Philippine Sea, saying strengthening the economy will give the country stronger footing in its dispute with China.
“The point is that agriculture has a domino effect. Kung maayos natin yung domino, maayos natin ang agriculture, more people will have jobs in the country, hindi na kailangang mag-abroad, mas maraming taong magkakatrabaho, bababa ang presyo, lalaki ang kita.
Pero while may problema tayo sa agriculture, baligtad yung domino effect sa atin, one problem to another, to another,” he said.
“So while we’re dealing with the West Philippine Sea, while we’re dealing with many, many problems, while we’re recovering from the pandemic, ano ba ang nangyari?… ‘Pag tumaas ang inflation at nagmahal ang bigas, I am concerned not only na magugutom ang tao, pero magkakaroon din ng political instability, magkakaroon din ng domino effect sa malnutrition,” he added.
Cayetano said addressing the problem requires one word: We should do “everything.”
“So, number one, strong language (against smugglers), continue strong language and of course action by the DOJ,” Cayetano said, adding it is “very important that people who are messing around with the supply of rice” know that the government is serious in running after them and bringing them to justice.
He said secondly, the government should have a contingency plan if the price of rice continues to rise. “May listahan naman ang DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). They’re testing itong food stamps, ‘di ba? Mayroon tayong 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program),” he said.
Thirdly, the government must provide the necessary support to farmers. One of the main solutions, he said, is to modernize agriculture in the country using technology, recalling a trip he made to China in 2016 during which he was shown how drones are programmed and used to spray pesticides on farms.
“Kailangan talaga complete modernization. We need to completely change… we have to change the way we think about agriculture,” he said, adding the government should “increase tremendously the budget for irrigation and farm-to-market roads” and look into all kinds of alternatives to fertilizers.
Cayetano also said farmers should be supported in the transition to agri-business so that their children and other young people could be enticed to enter the agriculture industry.
“Ang mga pumapasok sa farming ngayon ‘di ba mga mayayaman? Y’ung mga nakikilala natin na may pera, may puhunan, sobrang na-in love sa farming. Pero ang mga anak ng farmers are taking all other courses except farming, except agriculture,” he said.
“We should give the support to the farmers na hindi lang sila farmers, agri-biz na dapat talaga,” he added.