PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s (PBBM) state visits yield investment pledges whose value is “thousands of times” the travel budget of the Office of the President (OP), Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said Saturday.
In the case of Marcos’ maiden official foreign trips to Indonesia and Singapore, the P805-billion-worth of investment commitments he brought home.
“Yung isang biyahe pa lang, bawing-bawi na,” Recto said.
As coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) retreats and borders open, Recto said, “Zoom diplomacy should shift to face-to-face engagements – unless one is a fan of North Korea.”
As the country grapples with the combined blows of the pandemic and the food and fuel shocks unleashed by the war in Ukraine, Recto said, “many of the solutions to these problems lie outside our shores.”
Recto cited the country’s need for fertilizers which “the President’s trip to Jakarta gave him the opportunity to personally ask Indonesian President Widodo to allocate more for the Philippines.”
One in six sacks of fertilizer sold in the country come from Indonesia, Recto said.
Because global prices for fertilizer have skyrocketed by as much as 300% over the past year, our “fertilizer vulnerability” could cause rice harvest to plunge, triggering the need for more rice imports, Recto said.
“Kaya yun ang pakiusap ng ating Pangulo kay Widodo, kasi alam nya kung gaano kahalaga ang fertilizer sa ating bansa ngayon,” he said.
President Marcos told reporters in Indonesia that he had talked with Widodo “about the possibility of them supplying us with fertilizer, with urea.”
Recto said the price of a 50-kg bag of urea had gone up to P2,642 last August 22-26 from P1,079 during the same period two years ago.
When fertilizer becomes too expensive for farmers that they begin scrimping it, that nutrient denial will reduce harvest, Recto said.
Echoing warnings of agricultural experts, Recto said dark clouds are looming over our agricultural horizon, “so we must support the President’s plan on how to ensure our food supply.”
One, the country’s rice imports from January to August have reached 2.719 million metric tons (MMT) and are on track to top the 2.777 MMT imported last year, Recto said.
“During the same period last year, 1.66 MMT na ang pumasok mula Enero hanggang Agosto. Ngayon, for the same period, lumobo na at mas mataas na ng 64%,” he said.
But if our paddy output is “lower” than forecast, then the traditional ease of sourcing the deficit from abroad is no longer there, Recto said.
“Yung India, which accounts for 40 % of global rice trade, nag-impose na ng import restrictions. Its government has slapped a 20% duty on shipments of rice, and stopped the sale of broken rice abroad,” Recto said.
Thailand and Vietnam, on the other hand, have recently agreed to cooperate in raising the price of rice in the global market, Recto said.