January 17, 2023
MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Monday said the Philippines has no choice but to import onions, noting that the local supply of the agricultural commodity is not enough to meet the demands for the produce.
Several lawmakers have earlier expressed concern after the Department of Agriculture, which Marcos concurrently heads, greenlit the importation of 21,060 metric tons of red and yellow onions even as the local harvest season for the produce nears.
Hontiveros says ‘wait and see’ local onion farmers’ harvest first before importing crop
DA authorizes importation of more than 21,000MT of onions
READ: The PH onion conundrum: Solutions elusive, stop-gaps at best
The PH onion conundrum: Solutions elusive, stop-gaps at best
But Marcos maintained that the Philippines is “forced now again to import.”
“Kasi depende kung sino ang kausap mo whether or not we need to import, may nagsasabi na onion hindi kailangan mag-import. Tingnan mo iyong production ng Pilipinas, tingnan mo iyong demand, malayo talaga. Sinubukan natin na makuha lahat ng mga smuggled [onions] pero kulang pa rin kasi hindi rin natin nagamit iyong smuggled [onions], so we are forced to import,” he told reporters.
(It depends on who you’re speaking with – whether or not we need to import, some are saying we don’t need to import onions. But look at the production and demand in the Philippines, the gap is really wide. We tried to get all the smuggled onions but that wasn’t enough because we weren’t able to use those smuggled onions, so we are forced to import.)
For the sugar industry, on the other hand, Marcos bared the DA’s plans of maintaining a two-month buffer stock to prevent speculations about the prices of sugar and allay fears of a shortage of the sweet substance.
Marcos also acknowledged the rampant smuggling in the country as he fleshed out “some very good ideas” of the government in cracking down this illicit practice.
“Masyadong laganap ang smuggling dito sa Pilipinas, kahit na ano ini-i-smuggle (Smuggling is too rampant in the Philippines. They smuggle anything). So we really have to look into that. We have some very good ideas. We see what other people are doing in other countries, and we can use some of the strategies that they are using,” he said.
Aside from digitalizing the Bureau of Customs, Marcos said “the most important facet of this whole problem is production.”
READ: Marcos eyes BOC digitalization to curb smuggling
According to him, the government needs to extend assistance to the producers and growers of agricultural products.
“Diyan tayo naiipit eh. Nasanay tayo masyado sa import. Import lang tayo nang import, hindi natin inaayos iyong production side. Kaya noong tinamaan tayo ng pandemya, ramdam na ramdam natin. Same thing right now, when we lost supply from abroad or when we take supplies from abroad, iyong inflationary forces doon, nadadala rito sa Pilipinas,” Marcos explained.
(That’s where we fall short. We got too used to importing. We kept importing and importing, we didn’t fix the production side. So when the pandemic hit, we really felt it. Same thing right now, when we lost supply from abroad or when we take supplies from abroad, the inflationary forces are brought to the Philippines.)
He also pointed out that bringing down the country’s inflation rate this year is something the government is looking into achieving.
“Ang taas ng inflation (Inflation is so high), so we have to bring that down for the rest of the year, and I think it will. I think it will come down,” he added.
Inflation in the Philippines rose to 8.1 percent in December 2022 from 8 percent in November.
This, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, was mainly driven by faster rate of price hikes for vegetables, such as cabbage and rice, and fruits like bananas.
READ: Philippine inflation rose further to 8.1% in December