Category : Press Release
Date : November 06, 2020
Agency : Department of Finance
Title : Gov’t reforms boosted PHL food security ahead of COVID pandemic, says Dominguez
Article : Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the Philippines has been handling the COVID-19 crisis “with strength on the food security front,” as the Duterte administration introduced game-changing reforms over the last four years that boosted the productivity and enhanced the resiliency of the country’s agriculture sector ahead of the pandemic.

Dominguez said among these reforms under President Rodrigo Duterte’s decisive leadership is the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), which has set in place a liberalized rice trading regime that led to an adequate supply and cheaper retail prices of the food staple despite the mobility restrictions that the government implemented since March to curb the spread of COVID-19.

To ensure food security over the long run, Secretary Dominguez said the Philippine government is turning the coronavirus-induced health emergency into an opportunity to rapidly digitize its agricultural systems and mechanize farm production, as these twin measures will expand market access for food producers while keeping food supply available and prices affordable.

“We are confident that the innovative measures we are putting in place today will transform Philippine agriculture into a dynamic, high-growth sector that will fuel our country’s strong recovery,” Secretary Dominguez said during the high-level Food Security Roundtable held online via Zoom last month as part of the 2020 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The World Bank (WB) Group.

Secretary Dominguez said the government is also promoting digital marketing to support ongoing efforts to boost consumer spending in the new normal; sustaining public investments in rural infrastructure; and accelerating the move towards agricultural technology-based farming and value chain development to ensure long-term food security.

To channel more funds into the agriculture sector, the government is encouraging more private-sector financing in agriculture by proposing reforms in the Congress that will provide more access to credit for the entire agricultural value chain, Secretary Dominguez said.

“We all aspire for greater food and nutrition security for our people. Only an efficient and modern agriculture sector can fully deliver that,” said Secretary Dominguez, who was Agriculture secretary during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino.

He said that aside from helping ensure food security amid the pandemic, the RTL also mandated that tariffs collected from rice imports be earmarked for farm modernization programs to boost productivity and sharpen the competitiveness of local farmers.

The agriculture sector was “one of the brightest spots” of the Philippines’s response to the pandemic owing in large part to the RTL, Secretary Dominguez said.

He pointed out that this sector even continued to grow when the rest of the economy contracted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary Dominguez said rice tariffication was among the main reasons why the government has succeeded in keeping food prices and supply stable, and inflation low during the COVID-19 emergency.

Keeping rice prices stable has been helpful for low-income households that spend a fifth of their budgets on rice alone, he added.

“The Philippines faced the COVID-19 pandemic with strength on the food security front,” Secretary Dominguez said.

He pointed out that despite logistical restrictions resulting from the lockdowns imposed to protect people and communities from the lethal coronavirus, the government was able to sustain the flow of produce from local farms to Filipino consumers.

“A food crisis did not happen. This is credited to the effective management of the food supply by our Agriculture Department,” Secretary Dominguez said.

The conference brought together officials from the WB and finance, state and development cooperation ministers from countries at all income levels to discuss emerging and long-standing drivers of food insecurity, as well as financing and policy options to remedy these threats.

Finance, trade and economic policymakers tackled the impact of COVID-19 on the food and nutrition security in their respective countries.

Along with the WB officials, they also identified and discussed the innovations, resources and policy responses that can help reduce food insecurity this year and over the long term.