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Ensuring our food security

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast the occurrence of “one of the strongest El Niño in recorded history,” with one expert saying that it “has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño”. The Philippine weather agency predicts the El Niño will set in in the country with moderate to strong intensity in the last quarter of 2015 up to the first quarter of 2016. Ordinarily, El Niño happens every two to seven years in varying intensity, and the waters of the eastern Pacific rises up to 4 degrees Celsius higher than usual. The scorching heat that we are now experiencing and the below normal rainfall in many parts of the country may now be due to the onset of the El Niño.

Needless to say, El Niño will cause water and electricity stress that can trigger shortage in food supply due to its effects in the agriculture sector. In the last El Niño episode that hit the country in 1998, Philippine agriculture output contracted by 6.4 percent. With the onslaught of errant climatic phenomena such as El Niño and global warming, mitigating measures must be put in place early to cushion its adverse effects. A comprehensive mitigation system, including building of adequate infrastructure and rational policies, is critical for food security.  

National Food Authority is one of the important policy instrumentalities of the government that plays a crucial role in ensuring food security and achieving stability of food supply and prices of staple grain-rice and corn.  In particular, the NFA is in charged with the regulation in the supply of rice, a strategic agricultural commodity, produced by a large chunk of the labor population and occupies a major portion of the Filipino food basket. To ensure the stability of rice supply, the NFA is also charged with its procurement, mainly through importation. To date, the Philippines is already one of the world’s biggest rice importers. With the onset of El Niño, importation mainly from Vietnam and Thailand will likely increase. This year alone the NFA has already purchased 750,000 tonnes from its two Southeast Asian neighbors.

Despite the enormous efforts by the agency to make good on its mandate, the NFA has taken its share of controversies in the past. Previously, it has been accused of anomalous dealings and diversion of NFA rice importations. Under the administration of previous NFA Administrator Orlan Agbin Calayag, opponents accused the NFA of overpriced importation, bribery and of “coddling” rice smugglers.

On May 5, 2014, organizational restructuring ordered by President Aquino reassigned the National Food Authority and  three (3) other agencies to the Office of the President, with former Senator Francis Pangilinan given oversight responsibilities for the four agencies in the newly created post of Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization. NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag and the heads of the other agencies tendered their courtesy resignation to allow Secretary Pangilinan to appoint his own preferred candidates to head the agencies.

On Nov. 13, 2014 Renan Dalisay took the helm as head of NFA to assume the after an unfortunate controversy involving his predecessor Arthur Juan. Juan was accused of extortion in his first days in office, accusations clearly without basis but nonetheless damaging. Before his stint with the NFA, Administrator Dalisay occupied various responsible positions in the public and private sector as president of Freedom Development Ventures Inc, program officer of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, special assistant with the Office of Senator Francis Pangilinan and special assistant with the Office of the Presidential Assistant On Food Security and Agriculture Modernization.

On the appointment of the new NFA chief, Kiko Pangilinan OPAFSAM chief, had this to say: “I trust Renan Dalisay to serve with integrity and skill as he did for 12 years in the Senate. What we need in NFA is somebody who can make things happen and implement the clear directions, policies and reform agenda that the NFA Council and OPAFSAM (Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization) have set,” Dalisay’s wealth of experience is always a plus factor which makes him not only qualified to head NFA but to face the multifarious challenges the agency encounters as it performs its everyday responsibilities.

 Personally and professionally, I know and have worked with Administrator Dalisay as well and can echo how Secretary Pangilinan has described his long-time colleague, to which I will add the adjectives “honest, credible and trustworthy” to the good things that has been said of this official.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast the occurrence of “one of the strongest El Niño in recorded history,” with one expert saying that it “has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño”. The Philippine weather agency predicts the El Niño will set in in the country with moderate to strong intensity in the last quarter of 2015 up to the first quarter of 2016. Ordinarily, El Niño happens every two to seven years in varying intensity, and the waters of the eastern Pacific rises up to 4 degrees Celsius higher than usual. The scorching heat that we are now experiencing and the below normal rainfall in many parts of the country may now be due to the onset of the El Niño.

Needless to say, El Niño will cause water and electricity stress that can trigger shortage in food supply due to its effects in the agriculture sector. In the last El Niño episode that hit the country in 1998, Philippine agriculture output contracted by 6.4 percent. With the onslaught of errant climatic phenomena such as El Niño and global warming, mitigating measures must be put in place early to cushion its adverse effects. A comprehensive mitigation system, including building of adequate infrastructure and rational policies, is critical for food security.  

National Food Authority is one of the important policy instrumentalities of the government that plays a crucial role in ensuring food security and achieving stability of food supply and prices of staple grain-rice and corn.  In particular, the NFA is in charged with the regulation in the supply of rice, a strategic agricultural commodity, produced by a large chunk of the labor population and occupies a major portion of the Filipino food basket. To ensure the stability of rice supply, the NFA is also charged with its procurement, mainly through importation. To date, the Philippines is already one of the world’s biggest rice importers. With the onset of El Niño, importation mainly from Vietnam and Thailand will likely increase. This year alone the NFA has already purchased 750,000 tonnes from its two Southeast Asian neighbors.

Despite the enormous efforts by the agency to make good on its mandate, the NFA has taken its share of controversies in the past. Previously, it has been accused of anomalous dealings and diversion of NFA rice importations. Under the administration of previous NFA Administrator Orlan Agbin Calayag, opponents accused the NFA of overpriced importation, bribery and of “coddling” rice smugglers.

On May 5, 2014, organizational restructuring ordered by President Aquino reassigned the National Food Authority and  three (3) other agencies to the Office of the President, with former Senator Francis Pangilinan given oversight responsibilities for the four agencies in the newly created post of Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization. NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag and the heads of the other agencies tendered their courtesy resignation to allow Secretary Pangilinan to appoint his own preferred candidates to head the agencies.

On Nov. 13, 2014 Renan Dalisay took the helm as head of NFA to assume the after an unfortunate controversy involving his predecessor Arthur Juan. Juan was accused of extortion in his first days in office, accusations clearly without basis but nonetheless damaging. Before his stint with the NFA, Administrator Dalisay occupied various responsible positions in the public and private sector as president of Freedom Development Ventures Inc, program officer of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, special assistant with the Office of Senator Francis Pangilinan and special assistant with the Office of the Presidential Assistant On Food Security and Agriculture Modernization.

On the appointment of the new NFA chief, Kiko Pangilinan OPAFSAM chief, had this to say: “I trust Renan Dalisay to serve with integrity and skill as he did for 12 years in the Senate. What we need in NFA is somebody who can make things happen and implement the clear directions, policies and reform agenda that the NFA Council and OPAFSAM (Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization) have set,” Dalisay’s wealth of experience is always a plus factor which makes him not only qualified to head NFA but to face the multifarious challenges the agency encounters as it performs its everyday responsibilities.

 Personally and professionally, I know and have worked with Administrator Dalisay as well and can echo how Secretary Pangilinan has described his long-time colleague, to which I will add the adjectives “honest, credible and trustworthy” to the good things that has been said of this official.

At present, the NFA is at the forefront in the preparations for a possible worst-case scenario in rice production due to the looming El Niño, which could mean a prolonged drought ahead. “We need to prepare our supply early so we will not play catch up,” NFA chief Renan Dalisay said. As a countermeasure. the NFA Council, through the recommendation of the Interagency Food Security Committee (FSC), approved a total of 1.8- million MT of rice imports this year. Aside from these critical preparation activities, Administrator Dalisay has been doing the rounds to inspect and monitor the rice supply and other food products around the country. The NFA together with the Bureau of Customs and other concerned agencies also actively conduct activities to prevent rice smuggling.

The NFA as a government instrumentality seldom occupies the limelight. When it does, it is usually because of controversies. Even the debate on whether we should aim for rice sufficiency is clouded by allegations of corruption, instead of the merits of the policy. Thankfully, this is not the case under Administrator Dalisay who is a no-nonsense leader.

The NFA may not be a much ballyhooed agency as others and does its job with the least fanfare. But one can just imagine if there is no NFA that ensures the continued supply of food products especially rice to the ever burgeoning consuming public. Food security is not only a political issue but even an existential one. And the NFA is a vital cog in the whole food security system. I sleep well at night knowing that this essential agency is in good hands.

 

Facebook Page: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs

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