PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said the shortage in the supply of onions in the country has forced the Department of Agriculture (DA) to allow its importation.
In an interview with reporters on board a plane going to Switzerland, Marcos said there is a big difference between the local production of onions and its demand.
“May nagsasabing onion, hindi kailangan mag-import. Papaano naman hindi kailangang mag-import? Tignan mo ‘yung production ng Pilipinas, tignan mo ‘yung demand, malayo talaga. Sinubukan natin na makuha lahat ng mga smuggled, pero kulang pa rin, kasi hindi rin natin nagamit ‘yung smuggled. Talagang we were forced to import, so that is what they are doing,” he said.
(Some say there’s no need to import. How can we not import? Look at the production of the Philippines and the demand, there’s a big difference. We tried to get all the smuggled, but it is still not enough, because we cannot also use the smuggled. We were actually forced to import, so that is what they are doing.)
But Marcos said they are looking for ways to increase the production of homegrown onions to avoid importation in the future. This, he added, includes helping the growers.
“Hindi na tayo kailangan mag-import. Dyan tayo naipit eh, nasanay tayo masyado sa import, so import tayo ng import, hindi natin naayos 'yung production side,” he said.
(We don't need to import anymore. That's where we got stuck, we got too used to imports, so we kept on importing, but we failed to fix the production side.)
“Kaya nung tinamaan tayo ng pandemya, ramdam na ramdam natin. Same thing like now, when we lost supply from abroad, or when we take supplies from abroad, ‘yung inflationary forces doon, nadadala dito sa Pilipinas. Kaya’t yun ang tinitignan talaga natin ang taas ng inflation, so we have to bring that down for the rest of the year. And I think it will come down,” he added.
(So when the pandemic hit us, we felt it. Same thing like now, when we lose supply from abroad, or when we take supplies from abroad, the inflationary forces there are brought here to the Philippines. That's why we are really looking at the height of inflation, so we have to bring that down for the rest of the year. And I think it will come down.)
Last week, the DA gave the green light for the importation of 21,060 metric tons (MT) of onions, 3,960 MT of fresh yellow onions and 17,100 MT of red onions to stabilize the continuous increase of its price and to address supply gap prior to peak harvest in 2023.
Since the holiday season in December, prices of onions soared to around P600 to P720 per kilo.
Lawmakers from the House of Representatives and Senate called for an investigation on the matter as some of them expressed belief that a cartel is behind the soaring prices of locally produced onions.
Marcos said the government is also maintaining a two-month buffer stock for sugar to avoid shortage experienced in the country during the last quarter of 2022.
“We will maintain from now on, in sugar, a two-month buffer stock... so that people will know hindi tayo magkaka-shortage dahil lagi tayong mayroon two-month na buffer stock which I will maintain,” he said.
In September, the DA allowed the importation of sugar to address the shortage and arrest its soaring prices that reached over P100 per kilo.
Meanwhile, the President raised the need to address smuggling in the country, noting that they are looking into the strategies implemented by other nations against the illegal activity.
He said a big part of the solution against smuggling is the digitalization in the Bureau of Customs.
In a meeting with the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) last week, the President said the present system is not working and that government agencies must do something to decisively address rampant smuggling.
Marcos ordered reform in the bureaucracy to curb smuggling, lower logistics costs, and ensure the ease of doing business, as his government works to prop up investments and business activities in the country. (SunStar Philippines)