Food Security: An Important Issue in the 2022 Election
National and local elections will be held on May 9, 2022. During this time, Filipinos will choose candidates at various levels to replace the current leaders of the country. Heywood (2019) considers election as the heart of the political process, in the sense that it is the people who will appoint their governing representative in this way. However this is not the only important role of elections for the people. Heywood (2019) also mentioned that one of the vital purposes of elections is to influence the policies that the government intends to implement.
It is important to discuss social issues that will greatly affect the people in the coming elections. One of the issues I would like to emphasize in this essay is the issue of food security in the Philippines, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic brought on by COVID-19. Food security is one of the issues close to Filipinos, based on the surveys published by Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a person can only be said to be food-secure if “at all times, they have the physical and economic capacity to obtain adequate, safe, and nutritious food which will meet their needs and their desires for an active and healthy lifestyle.” FAO also added that there are four components that must be considered to ensure the food security of the people of various countries such as food availability, food accessibility, utilization, and stability.
For this essay, the discussion focuses on the issue of food security and the factors that affect it. This also includes the importance of this topic for Filipinos as one of the important issues in the upcoming elections, and the concerns that the next administration should focus on to ensure the food security of every Filipino.
What are the factors that affect food security?
Many factors affect the food security of the Philippines. One of them is climate change. Due to climate change, many climate-dependent industries such as agriculture and fishing have been affected by it. Aside from climate change, water supply is also an important matter since there is competition in its use in various ways. The issue of land for green energy and how it is used for residential areas is also another major blow to the issue of food security.
In addition, the price of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, and other farming supplies also affect the issue of food security, which in turn discourages farmers in Southeast Asia from using it. Hence, based on the study of Palis (2020), farmers in the Philippines are old, since most of the farmers in the Philippines are between 50 - 59 years old. The study also mentioned that apart from the age of the farmers, one should also pay attention to the desire of the farmers for their children not to follow in their footsteps as farmers because of the low income they earn.
What is the current situation regarding food security in the Philippines?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, food security was already an important issue for the people. Examining the results of the SWS survey in late 2019, 8.8% of Filipino families experienced hunger, or the equivalent of 2.1 million families (SWS, 2020). Aside from this, one of the issues that the people wanted to hear from the Philippine president in his speech in 2019 are topics related to food security such as raising wages, lowering commodity prices, agricultural development, raising pension, regularization of employment, solving poverty, and other concerns affecting an individual’s food security.
If food security has always been a prominent issue among the people, the issue has intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the Philippines had a problem with the supply of food as it severely affected the country's food supply chain. This is caused by: 1) implementation of quarantine by the national government, 2) outbreak of African Swine Fever which has caused the death of many pigs and increased its market price, and 3) shortage in rice supply due to other countries controlling their supply which the Philippines is importing.
By looking at According to the SWS survey (2021), 13.6% or the equivalent of 3.4 million Filipino families have experienced hunger. The SWS added that although this is lower than the first recorded 4.2 million Filipino families in May 2021 (16.8%), this number is still higher than the number of starved Filipinos before the pandemic began which is 2.1 million Filipino families (8.8%). In another survey by Pulse Asia, voters considered being able to have enough to eat three meals a day as one of their urgent personal concerns. Furthermore, examining the most urgent national concerns, Pulse Asia also stated that the most important factor that the government should focus on is the issue of rising prices or inflation. Considering the official definition of food security, the price of goods is related to whether a person will be food-secure or not.
To sum up, the issue of food security is an important topic for voters. Looking at the sentiments of people, it is important that candidates of the 2022 election will discuss their plans to resolve the food security of the country.
What should the next leaders of the country do?
Based on the aforementioned factors that affect Philippine food security, the next leaders of the country must do a lot to solve it.
First, we need to make sure that the country is able to adapt to climate change. The Philippines is considered to be the hardest hit by climate change. That is why the issue of climate change must be given attention because the Philippine economy is greatly affected by the effects of disasters. An estimated PhP 515.51 billion (US $ 10.6B) or equivalent to 0.33% of the country's GDP per year, was lost during the years 2010-2020 due to disasters. And if left unresolved, 6% of the country’s GDP could be lost per year by 2100.
At the same time, the next administration must also give attention to the issue of land use. Currently, the decision regarding land use rests with the local government. It will greatly help the Philippines if there is a policy that will guide the proper development of the country's natural resources such as land. To date, there has been no national land use policy that was passed to the Philippine Congress, which is considered necessary to strengthen the country's food security.
Another aspect that should also be highlighted is the development of farming as an occupation. As mentioned by Palis (2020), the country will face a problem if no one wants to continue farming in the Philippines. One of the measures that candidates can consider is crop diversification, where attention should also be given to other agricultural products besides rice, in order to increase the income of farmers.
These are just a few of the measures that candidates should consider in the 2022 election to resolve the issue of food security in the Philippines. Clearly this issue is very important to what voters are considering in the coming election. If the candidates do not pay proper attention to the said issue, many Filipinos will starve in the future.
The issue of food security is important to discuss in the upcoming 2022 Election. Many Filipino families have been reported to have experienced hunger, especially during the pandemic. The issue of hunger also emerged in the personal concerns of Filipinos, and the issue of rising prices as one of the main issues that the government must focus on.
That is why it should be a challenge for the candidates in the 2022 Election to solve the lack of food security in the Philippines. Many Filipinos will starve in the future if they will not address it. And for the voters, the programs that the candidates intend to undertake needs to be carefully scrutinized. The direction that the Philippines will take depends on their hands.
Nathaniel Punongbayan Candelaria is a Teaching Associate and a graduate student in the Department of Political Science, College of Social Science and Philosophy, UP Diliman. This is an English translation of the essay originally published by UP sa Halalan 2022. The original essay is available at https://halalan.up.edu.ph/emfood-security-emisang-mahalagang-usapin-sa-halalan-2022/.