President Marcos, Jr. on food and nutrition security

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Food is a basic human necessity, and everyone needs food to live. However, providing enough food security and, moreover, nutrition security poses a global challenge to mitigate the risks of hunger, malnutrition, and even climate change, among other conflicts.

To address the global challenge of food security, the United Nations’ second sustainable development goal (SDG) is set to prioritize sustainable agriculture by the year 2023, as the World Economic Forum (WEF) noted. According to the WEF, agricultural sustainability can be achieved by implementing public-private partnerships, and effective business strategies, and by engaging in greenhouse emissions, water, and waste usage can boost productivity in agricultural sectors.

It is important to note that food insecurity is a significant driver of non-communicable diseases and, in worst-case scenarios, can impact the health of the planet.

Earlier this January, the WEF Annual Meeting once again tackled this issue in a panel session themed “Moving Towards Nutrition Security.” President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., one of the speakers, shared that steps that should be taken so that nations can attain nutrition security, which include boosting agricultural and fishery productivity, improving logistics systems and changing people’s lifestyles.

“We must invest in facilities, logistics and systems that bring nutritious food to our people, much like a grander scale of farm-to-table and increase the capacity of our institutions to enforce regulations that enhance food quality,” Mr. Marcos was quoted as saying.

He also raised the need to “cooperate to develop technologies that increase the nutritional value of our food and content and prolong their shelf life.”

The President also shared how he sees food security is being addressed in the country.

“Food security remains at the forefront of our national agenda. Anchored in our vision for a prosperous, resilient, and secure Philippines by the year 2040,” Mr. Marcos said.

“The overreaching goals of this administration are to build an inclusive society where no one is hungry, where Filipinos live long and healthy lives and where they are provided by an environment built upon trust and security and where they can be innovative, remains smart, and responsive to the problems of the day,” he added.

Prior to this session at Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Marcos told world leaders that food security is a serious global problem that it serves as a lens in which other global threats such as climate change and conflicts are seen through.

“Food security must be a top priority for all governments and developing economies must have the policy flexibility needed to ensure an increased domestic food production and diversification and to improve the local agricultural supply and value chain,” Mr. Marcos was quoted as saying in his speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Bangkok, Thailand last November.

The President mentioned as well at Davos that with the goal of providing sufficient and quality nutrition for all Filipinos, the Philippines has already developed nutritional programs, including the Nutritional National Council (NNC), that focus on addressing the hunger and nutritional needs of the country. Specifically, the NNC was established to formulate, coordinate, and evaluate national food and nutritional policies.

In addition, for Mr. Marcos, not only is the administration working on providing quality food security for all, but also on improving and strengthening the country’s agricultural sector, which plays an integral role in the impact of climate change and economic growth; and becoming one step closer in making the Philippines a “leading agricultural resource hub in the region and the world.”

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“The work to improve our agricultural sector and improve the plight of our farmers and fisherfolk has only just begun, we need to continue to open more opportunities to improve their well-being,” he was quoted as saying last October in a BusinessWorld report.

As cited by the 2021 Food Security Index, the Philippines was ranked 64 out of 113 countries in the food security matrix. Though not quite there yet, Mr. Marcos said, the Philippines was able to develop growth in food security, but it needs more.

“If we are to attain SDG on zero hunger, it bears emphasizing that the challenge of nutrition is different for you and for me, from your economy to mine, from us here to the people back at home. Among our priority interventions are those geared toward making food available, affordable, accessible, amid the looming global food and energy shortage,” Mr. Marcos explained in his opening remarks at the said WEF session.

According to Mr. Marcos, the administration is set to focus on productivity-enhancing interventions, research and development, and government spending on the agriculture and distribution sectors, by boosting productivity in the sector, using climate-resilient technologies, promoting agricultural production in non-agricultural areas, investing in facilities, logistics, and systems, and developing technologies that will help provide nutritious foods and increase the quality of food.

During the APEC CEO Summit, Mr. Marcos shared that alongside local nutritional programs, the Philippine government has expanded irrigation projects, worked on developing agri-trading and food logistics hubs, and collaborated with cooperatives and organizations to obtain refrigerated vans, freezers, chillers, and other related equipment.

Nonetheless, the administration is looking forward to their partnership with WEF towards sufficient and actionable plans for attaining food and nutrition security.

“The work of the WEF’s New Frontiers of Nutrition, a vital component of the equally vital Future of Consumption Platform, is commendable in this regard in providing us all in a first big leap towards nutrition security through a common paradigm on the purpose of nutrition and the future of food and developing principle and indicators to sustain our efforts while aiming to create economic value,” Mr. Marcos explained during the WEF panel session.

Additionally, he said the local government will also prioritize feeding programs in local schools, where the government will provide food for children in schools and assistance to Filipinos who are severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Marcos also mentioned the key to achieving food security is through system-based and data-driven cooperation.

With the Philippine leader’s commitment to the second SDG, he continues to aim for agricultural excellence and to grow and sustain development in food security and agricultural development.

“Let us incentivize a nutritious lifestyle, promote active and healthy-seeking behaviors across different ages and income levels and create an ecosystem based on the concept of a green and circular economy,” Mr. Marcos added. — Angela Kiara S. Brillantes

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