March for the right to food today in Manila
by Stefano Vecchia

Environmentalists and workers rallied near the Department of Agriculture, a portfolio held by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in person. The Philippines continues to be one of the countries most exposed to food insecurity due to climate change. For Caritas, the government should have a subsidy programme so as not to burden farmers.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Philippine environmental groups, farmers, and workers organised a march today in the capital rallying near the Department of Agriculture to urge President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to treat “the right of people to food” as a priority. The president, who took office on 30 June, also serves as secretary of agriculture.

The Philippines continues to be one of the countries most exposed to food insecurity. According to the government, 20 million people (out of a total of 110) live in poverty.

On World Food Day, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued an appeal to "leave no one behind" at a time when tens of millions of people face or risk facing food shortages due to pandemics, conflicts, climate change, and rising prices.

According to UN data, about 3.1 billion people who are already unable to eat properly could see their conditions worsen.

In the Philippines, the emergency concerns above all – now and in the future – climate unpredictability and the sudden alternation of droughts and floods.

Typhoon Noru alone devastated large parts of the country in September, destroying more than 158,000 tonnes of food, and bringing 110,000 farmers and fishermen to their knees in sectors on which 40 per cent of the population directly depends.

Before the end of the rainy season, at least nine more extreme events are expected, which could undermine government action.

Farmers affected by Noru received seeds from the authorities worth US$ 3.5 million, plus a US$ 500 interest-free loan; however, for farmers' organisations, this is too little, and above all too late. Instead, they want immediate intervention.

Antonio Labiao Jr, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, calls on the government to modify its action plan by directing resources to the development of a government subsidy programme so that insurance premiums do not weigh on farmers.

For this reason, the priority should clearly be on farmers, not landowners, to avoid waste of resources and abuses.

“Instead of relying on imports,” the clergyman also wants to see action “to strengthen local production and food purchased from local farmers”.