President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should prioritize ensuring food security in the Philippines especially amid a weak global environment that makes the country more vulnerable.

Non-government organization Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) is hoping that the incoming Marcos administration will give importance to achieving food security in the country.

According to the United Nations, food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.

Unfortunately, the world has faced increasing problems that hindered economies in achieving food security and the Philippines is no exception. Among these challenges include worsening climate change, rapid population growth, elevated food costs, and other global tensions that impact trade and commodity prices.

“We hope that they will prioritize food security and our local producers, providing the necessary support and pass policies that will empower them and push them to be locally and globally competitive,” PRRM president Edicio dela Torre said.

For one, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine proved the country’s vulnerability to shocks.

Agricultural commodities such as wheat and fertilizers, which the Philippines imports, already saw sharp price increases over the past months. Other goods are also being affected due to the elevated oil prices in the world market. While he has yet to name his agriculture chief, Marcos already expressed his intention to make agriculture among his top priorities as he targets a Philippines that is food-secure and resilient.

“We hope the president prioritizes our local food security, our farmers and our fishermen by not only providing support and aid to the industry but also by strengthening our navy, maritime police and coast guard so we can protect what is ours,” Dela Torre said.

“We want the President to prioritize our local producers. China makes up 86 percent of our seafood and 22 percent of fish imports. Its top export is galunggong which now sells at P250 to P350 a kilo. Our main fish staple is now a protein that is more expensive than chicken and is almost equal to pork,” he said.

In his recent meeting with German Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel, Marcos has committed to promote international rules-based order and the rule of law to ensurepeace and stability in the West Philippine Sea.

Further, dela Torre emphasized that most of the country’s agriculture is centered on rice and other land based crops but there are 1.9 million people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sectors.

“Importation has been the stop gap solution but this is not the long term solution. There are several ways to close the fishing gaps and importation is not one of them,” dela Torre said.

“We have to prioritize securing our local fishing grounds and the exclusive economic zone and empower our fishermen to fish in our own waters,” he said.

Dela Torre noted that the food value chain is not singular and that there is a need to deal primarily with national interests in terms of food sovereignty and with different countries and stakeholders to provide key markets and inputs.

“Definitely we must take a more plural approach, a multilateral one because we have to take into account all the stakeholders involved,” he said.

Similarly, the group maintained that there is a need for a separate department to oversee the whole fishing industry and help institutionalize the Philippines as a maritime country. PR