Food security is key to winning any and all wars, including this one against the 2019 coronavirua disease.
Troops, n this case our emergency frontliners – doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, policeman, soldiers, -- march on full stomachs.
They would only be successful in waging this war if they are well fed and nutritionally fortified along with the rest of the population who have dug in for a long viral siege.
And it is reassuring that Agriculture Sec. William Dar on Saturday expressed commitment on the continued supply of adequate food at reasonable prices to consumers nationwide amid the national state of emergency imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We are heartened that during the 21st teleconference of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, we approved 'that all agriculture and fishery stakeholders must be considered front-liners and their movements shall remain unhampered'," Dar said.
"Indeed, now more than ever, our food security front-liners – farmers, fishers and other workers in the food value chain – will play a crucial part in our fight against Covid-19. That’s why it is important that we continue to empower them to ensure continued production and delivery of food to our countrymen,” he added.
Dar also thanked the IATF for approving the “Plant, Plant, Plant” Program or Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Laban sa Covid-19, part of which is the P8.5-billion fund for the Rice Resiliency Project to expand production areas, improve yields, and ensure availability of rice in the country.
“The ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ Program aims to further improve our food adequacy levels through increased rice, food crops, livestock, poultry and fish production, including that of attaining efficient food processing, marketing, and distribution to major consumption centers,” he added.
Dar said under the Rice Resiliency Project, the department seeks to boost palay (unhusked rice) production by the end of 2020 to 22.12 million metric tons, equivalent to 13.51 MMT of rice or 93 percent of the country's total rice demand at 14.46 MMT.
“Right after the current dry season, we will urge farmers to plant more areas by providing them quality seeds, fertilizers, and appropriate technical assistance," the DA chief said.
The rice resiliency project would cover more areas this main cropping season, totaling 2.7 million hectares, broken down into 1.2 million hectares under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund to be planted to inbred rice; 550,000 hectares planted to hybrid; and 950,000 hectares to inbred rice.
"In all, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of our rice, corn, coconut, vegetable, sugar and commercial crop farmers and fishers, and other players in the food value chain, in ensuring stable food supply, especially to Metro Manila and other urban centers, in this challenging time amid the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ due to Covid-19," Dar said.
Meanwhile, a private group has responded to the call by reaching out to small farmers in Benguet province, bought their vegetable harvest, and gave them away as relief aid to residents of Quezon City.
Lawyer Thorsson Keith, who hails from Benguet and is a member of the Friends of Bongbong Marcos group, said they wanted to save the farmers’ produce from being wasted and at the same time, offer some healthy food to the public, especially those affected by the enhanced community quarantine that was implemented to control the spread of Covid-19.
“We really looked for these small farmers. We bought the vegetables from them directly and it was hard looking for them,” Keith said in an interview on Saturday morning. “But we did not want to connect with a middleman because we want to somehow extend help to the farmers themselves. Instead (of them) weep(ing) over spoiled harvest, we saved it and set up a distribution drive for people in quarantine.”
The truck came all the way from Benguet and arrived at Quezon City at 7 a.m., carrying 500 bags each containing 5 kg. of assorted fresh veggies -- bok choy, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, carrots, potatoes, red bell peppers, and Baguio beans.
The bags of veggies were donated to 20 barangays in the city, which would distribute them to their constituents.
Phil Villamor, the organizer of the drive, said the group was inspired by President Duterte’s call for private individuals “to help if they can give help”.
“This is a group effort. At least 15 of us shelled out money from our own pockets. We have extra with us so we want to participate in the aid and we thought that if we are going to help, we have to give the recipients something that is healthy because we saw from the news that it was always canned goods. It is a health crisis, so we need to eat food that will build our immune system,” he said.