Senator wants probe on rising food prices

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 20) — Senator Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday filed a resolution seeking an inquiry on rising food prices nationwide.

The lawmaker said Senate Resolution 618 aims to determine appropriate measures to stabilize these prices, as well as to ensure adequate and affordable food for Filipinos, whose livelihoods have already been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"For the past few weeks, at the start of the new year, the prices of a number of commodities in the market have continued to soar," Pangilinan said in his privilege speech. "Habang tumataas ang presyo ng pagkain, lalo pang dadami ang magugutom [Along with the rise in food prices also comes the rise in the number of people experiencing hunger]."

Pangilinan cited the Department of Agriculture's January 18 report, which showed the prevailing per-kilo price has reached ₱38 for regular milled rice, ₱280 for galunggong, ₱180 for dressed chicken, ₱450 for liempo, ₱200 for talong, ₱230 for cabbage, and ₱1,000 for siling labuyo.

He noted that the increase in prices is due to the drop in supply caused by the pandemic lockdowns, the successive typhoons last year, the African swine fever, and the closed fishing season due to the cold weather.

Last September, a nationwide survey showed an estimated 7.6 million families experienced hunger. This accounted for a new record-high of 30.7%, surpassing the previous record of 23.8% in March 2012.

"Alam ng mga kababayan natin na gutom ang mas matinding kalaban kaysa sa COVID [Our fellow countrymen know that hunger is a stronger enemy than COVID]," the senator said, detailing how amid the suspension of public transportation during the first month of the lockdown, several Filipinos walked long distances to work and put food on the table.

"These food supply shortages and the resulting hunger may cause greater and long-term devastation than COVID itself," he added.

He also pushed for the full implementation of the Sagip Saka Law, which seeks to improve the lives of farmers and fishermen, who may have been "discouraged from planting after consecutive losses" in the market due to cheaper food imports.

"Let us recall that during the pandemic last year, agriculture was the only sector that grew. If this trajectory continues, agriculture could be a major driver of growth. It would give income to the farmers as well as increase food supply in the market leading to lower prices and food for all. Three birds with one stone," Pangilinan said.

According to Pangilinan, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Senator Cynthia Villar, has already agreed to conduct hearings on his resolution.