SENATE MINORITY LEADER Franklin M. Drilon on Sunday urged the government to provide infrastructure support to the agriculture sector under its Build, Build, Build program to prevent rice shortages and deter rice traders from taking excessive profits.
In a statement, Mr. Drilon said the reported shortages and high prices in some areas of the country, such as Zamboanga City, were due to the “poor agricultural infrastructure that stymied growth of agriculture sector.”
“It is unfortunate that the Philippines, considered an agricultural country, has no sufficient rice on the table, which is a staple food of millions of Filipinos,” he said.
“Why did it happen? Because our farmers do not get the support they need in terms of infrastructure resulting in low harvest each year. We must therefore provide them infrastructure that can boost their production,” he added.
Zamboanga City was declared under a state of calamity after rice prices rose to as high as P70 per kilogram. This prompted senators to file a resolution seeking to investigate the rice crisis in the Mindanao city. Some lawmakers also called for the resignation of National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jason Y. Aquino while others wanted the grains agency to be abolished.
Mr. Drilon cited the construction of the P11.2 billion Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project Phase II (JRMP) in his home island of Iloilo as among the projects much needed by agriculture. The signing of the contract for the projects’ construction between the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and contractor Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd. is set for today, Sept. 3.
The JRMP II includes the construction of the 109-meter Jalaur high dam, a 38.5-meter afterbay dam, the 10-meter Alibunan catch dam, a 80.74-kilometer high line canal, and the rehabilitation of an existing irrigation system.
He said the project will address the declining agricultural productivity in Western Visayas.
“The contract signing for one of the biggest agricultural undertakings will bring us closer to our goal of improving agricultural production and stimulating activities,” he said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo