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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Jun 22, 2022

‘Build, Build, Build’ critical for food security

President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. recently announced that he will temporarily assume the post of Agriculture Secretary upon the start of his term, noting the severity of the challenges in the sector that need to be addressed.

This move also shows that agriculture is a high priority for the incoming President, and rightfully so because it is imperative for our leaders to ensure our nation’s food security. The Covid-19 pandemic, the global events that have been affecting the prices of basic commodities, and our country’s vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change impacts all threaten our food security.

According to the United Nations food security exists when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Agriculture is vital in safeguarding not only our food supply but also our nutrition needs. In order to upgrade the efficiency of our agriculture industry, the government needs to provide the needs of our farmers and fisherfolks, which include farm-to-market roads.

In the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020, investment in road networks, transport and market infrastructure is seen to help reduce the cost of bringing farm produce to market. Moreover, improvements of all-weather rural roads and the national road network can facilitate farmers’ access to markets and reduce pre-harvest and post-harvest losses.

Between 2016-2021, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) completed 29,264 kilometers of roads under President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program. Of the said number, 2,025 kilometers are farm-to-market roads, and 94.99 kilometers are farm-to-mill roads. But all the infrastructure projects under the BBB will benefit our overall food system by providing our farmers and fisherfolks access for transporting and selling their produce, and reducing travel time to reach markets, which will result in higher income for our farmers and lower cost of goods.

For instance, when the Pigalo Bridge in Isabela was devastated by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel in 2011, farmers who wanted to bring their agricultural products to Manila or Tuguegarao had to take a 76-kilometer detour via Alicia-Angadanan-San Guillermo-Naguilian Road that resulted in an extra full day’s travel. They endured that for eight years. In 2019, the new Pigalo Bridge was completed after just two years and farmers can now reach their destination in less than a day, and for some within 10-15 minutes.

In Zamboanga del Norte, six farm-to-market roads were completed within two months in 2018, including the 700-meter Barangay Panabang farm-to-market road in the municipality of Liloy; and the 500-meter Barangay Tan-Awan farm-to-market road in the municipality of Baliguian.

In the municipality of Silago, Southern Leyte, community members of Katipunan Village are also benefitting from the concreting of the four-kilometer Catmon farm-to-market road.

These roads and bridges, and all the infrastructure projects under the BBB have been helping ensure the unimpeded flow of people, goods, and services, by connecting hubs and regions, rural communities and urban centers. Linking our communities and providing people better access to their most basic needs, especially food, help provide a comfortable life for all Filipinos, including our farmers and fisherfolks whose productivity and income would also increase through new and improved road networks.

The BBB has been benefitting our farmers and fisherfolks. With the incoming administration’s commitment to continue BBB as well as its resolve to strengthen the agriculture sector, we hope we can achieve not only food security, but even food self-sufficiency.

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