THE Philippines now consists of a population of 110 million whilst Negros Occidental in the 2015 census has 2.5 million people while Bacolod City has 562,000. With a projected population of four million for the whole province in 2020, there is a real basis to be concerned about our local government’s capability to address the specter of food shortage.

Right now, with billions of government funds released for emergency food needs and relief of the poor, the problem of hunger may not be real to many. But what will happen when the national government runs out of cash? Print money and bring about hyperinflation?

Experts estimate that this pandemic will last at least two years, with a more devastating second wave. Interestingly prophets I am following, an Indian and two Americans have been prophesying about the deadly virus to hit the world, the second one to come more deadly than the first since 2019. The issue is, soon food will run out, the supply chain has been cut and we aren’t producing enough. Key actors have a lot of rethinking and planning to do.

Famine looms. What is our proactive response?

Our elder, national artist and columnist writer Frank Sionil Jose said, “we must now plant, plant, plant... Although it’s totally different, the enforced quarantine imposed by the pandemic brings back memories of the Japanese Occupation. We were a mere 24 million then—we are now 110 million. “

Truly, what hit us globally is like a world war. That things are not going to be like in pre-Covid-19 is becoming clear to all. Clearly, we are crossing into a new era.

Negros Occidental and Bacolod must, in the wake of warding off the pandemic, create a Food Security Commission, that will comprise key actors not only from government but from the private sector-- practitioners of natural farming, big landholders, business, agri-preneurs, mass media communicators,

Negros cannot afford to have a repeat of the hunger problem in the 1980s whence, the picture of the skeletal child of the Dumaan became iconic and identified with Sugarlandia.

If there is no turning back, then what?

I write with Negros, in near-future view, and in this column, I am making this clarion call for radical and proactive measures to address very probable hunger problem. One thing good with our province nearly three decades after the hunger problem of the mid-1980s is that we have attained a certain degree of diversification. Thanks to the focused, persistent, loud cry of former Governor Daniel “BItay” Lacson for diversification through foundations he helped established. The pressing hunger problem and children dying of malnutrition then was effectively addressed.

Remember the 60-30-10 model for land use program? That was Bitay Lacson’s cry even before he became governor; reduce sugarcane plantation to 60 percent, plant 30 percent to high-value crop, and 10 percent of the land, share for food security production of the sugarcane workers. The said model was Bitay Lacson’s call for the planters to address the hunger problem in Negros from 1983-1986, before the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

I suggest we follow a revised version, 65-35-5: 65 percent be retained for sugarcane cultivation, 35 percent for high value food crops, and five percent “karuruton” (rootcrops, green leafy vegetables) for farm workers.

Today, we call on another Lacson, Governor Bong, to take heed of the hunger problem looming over the province, especially the dumaan in the haciendas, the sacada/pangayaws, marginal fisherfolk communities in the coastal areas, and the kaingeros (yes, they persist to this day though they do it in a clandestine form). We need a Post-Covid-19 life plan program for Negros.