Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr orders DA to study silos as rice, corn storage

2023 June 16

SILOS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. presides over a meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council on agriculture held at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Thursday (June 15, 2023). Marcos, who concurrently serves as the Department of Agriculture secretary, directed the department to look into the feasibility and efficiency of the proposal to build silos as rice and corn storage to maintain a 30-day buffer stock of agricultural commodities.

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MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to look into the feasibility and efficiency of the proposal to build silos as rice and corn storage to maintain a 30-day buffer stock of agricultural commodities.

Marcos, who concurrently serves as DA chief, gave the directive after the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) on Agriculture made the suggestion after a meeting held at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Thursday.

Marcos had instructed DA Undersecretary Drusila Bayate and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Roderico Bioco to study the proposed creation of rice and corn station modules in the country using a mother-daughter or Hub and Spoke system, Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement on Friday.

Under the PSAC’s proposal, around 30 mother stations will have 10 daughter modules each and will be built nationwide to serve as storage for rice and corn for buffer stocking for 30 days at any given time.

Garafil said the station modules will be built in a 30-kilometer radius away from the main station.

“The PSAC recommended that building nationwide mother-daughter stations for rice and corn storage will complement the Marcos administration’s Food Security Infrastructure Modernization Plan,” she said, adding that the proposal is seen to ensure “sufficient stock and stable prices of rice and corn.”

Aileen Christel Ongkauko of La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp., who heads the PSAC Agriculture group, said countries like China, the United States and India have already established the mother-daughter module stations.

The government may seek public-private partnership (PPP) for the proposed project which has an estimated cost of PHP170 billion, Ongakuko said, noting that each mother station may cost PHP5.7 billion each.

Marcos welcomed the proposal and acknowledged that it may be worthy to adopt the scheme.

“We should really look into it because it’s a successful program,” he said, as quoted by the PCO.

In a separate statement, the PSAC said it also proposed the creation of a technical working group, with the council’s active participation, to develop and implement this plan.

“To encourage private sector participation, the council suggested exploring public-private partnerships for each module, with the government guaranteeing an offtake of 100,000 metric tons per module per year,” it said.

“Additionally, the use of hybrid seeds for rice and corn during the wet season is advised, along with selecting key farmers within a 30-kilometer radius of each daughter station. The National Food Authority will lead the work plan,” the PSAC added.

Lowering price of rice

During the meeting, Bioco expressed hope that the proposed scheme would help lower the cost of rice prices.

This, as he noted that there was a previous effort to implement a similar proposal but did not materialize.

“Traditionally, NFA is supposed to have a 30-day buffer stock before the lean season. It was easier because you just import but now we have to procure palay (unhusked rice) nine months earlier,” Bioco said.

“If we switch to that also, Mr. President, what we hope to achieve is that quantitative easing in prices of rice…, supply the bottom 18 percent of our society, take that away from the market then we can put lesser pressure on prices especially during the lean season,” he added.

The NFA is mandated to oversee the local procurement of unhusked rice and maintain the optimal level of buffer stock at all times strategically located across the country.

Bioco said the government has over PHP35 billion budget for rice procurement, noting that the target is to supply poor households with physical rice so that they do not have to go to the market to buy rice, which, in the end, will put less pressure on rice prices.

Marcos expressed appreciation over the NFA’s efforts to ensure that the country has a “stable” rice supply.

“I’m happy to see that NFA is returning to its original function in trying to even out the price of rice, making it stable all throughout harvest and then the planting cycle,” he said.

Fishing policies, programs

Meantime, the PSAC also gave an update on its past recommendations and made new suggestions for the fishery sector to ensure food security in the country.

The PSAC said its earlier proposal to pursue fish importation in Luzon from Nov. 2022 to Jan. 2023 in Mindanao from Dec. 2022 to Feb. 2023 has been “well-executed.”

It also asked Marcos to approve the granting of 25-year long-term permits for the Fishpond Lease Agreements for aquaculture operations in dams and reservoirs.

“To promote equitable competition, it is strongly encouraged that all operators adhere strictly to environmental, labor and other applicable regulations,” the PSAC said, adding that the DA, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Irrigation Administration may work together to implement the work plan.

The PSAC also proposed the issuance of “clear” policies regarding delineation areas for commercial fishing.

It said it seeks close collaboration with BFAR to establish “science-based” fishing areas based on depth, not distance from shore.

“The council further suggested extending the terms of licenses to operate fish farming areas, promoting stability and long-term investment in the sector. PSAC will work also with DA and DENR to execute the plan,” it said.

Garafil said the PSAC is also seeking the development of a national policy that will guide and encourage local government units to provide long-term permits on exclusive areas for aquaculture operators for at least 10 years for new developments and 5 to 7 years for existing farming areas.

Present during the meeting were PSAC Lead Convenor Sabin Aboitiz, along with industry leaders Chris Po of the Century Grou; Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. of Frabelle; Irwin Lee of Universal Robina; and Ramon Lim of RNCL Prime Holdings Corporation.

Also in attendance were PSAC Communications Lead Anna Margarita Hontiveros-Malvar,, PSAC Assistant Secretariat Lead David Jude Sta. Ana, DENR Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr., Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., and Presidential Adviser on Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go.

Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)