Gov't info officers urged to help fight global economic storm
by Rizalie A. Calibo
Cebu City (6 November) -- Noting the country's recent challenges of rising food and fuel prices, Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Management Staff Ferdinand "Andy" Cui Jr. urged all government information Officers in Central Visayas to think of better ways to help the country win the fight against global economic storm.
Speaking at the 18th convention of Regional Association of Development Information Officers in Region 7 (RADIO-7) this morning, Asec Cui said IOs are in the ground and have a better pulse of knowing and costumizing the people's desire, wants and motivation as he encouraged them to be equipped with information to come up with the "ammunition" that they can use in sharing to the grassroots.
He lauded the PIA's conduct of RADIO-7 convention and hoped that it should be replicated in all regions.
Asec Cui tackled on the government's "Food and Energy Security" stressing that it is working non-stop to mitigate the problem which he said were only a reflection of the global situation.
He said surging oil and food prices, have primarily caused the jump in inflation in 2008. Oil skyrocketed to more than $140 per barrel in July 2008 which he said is pushed by several factors. Among them is the increasing demand of developing countries such as China and India, the decreasing production of oil in the global market, speculation in the global market on supply and impending increases in oil prices, and instability in the Middle East, the major producer of oil in the world.
Food prices, including rice, have risen, which is also pushing overall inflation upwards, he said. "The price of export rice from major exporting countries, namely, Thailand, Vietnam, US, and Pakistan have more than doubled from October 2007 to May 2008. The price of Thai Parboiled rice increased by 200% from $346 to $1,037 per ton; US Long Grain by 116% from $481 to $978; Vietnam rice by 218% from $324 to $1,030; and Pakistan rice by 153% from $314 to $793.
However, in the second semester of 2008, he said, both oil and rice enjoyed decreases in prices with oil dropping to US$70.53 per barrel on November 4 and export rice such as Vietnam rice going down to US$546/ton in September.
"But while the price trends for oil and rice appear favorable today, there remains a need to undertake measures to sustain food and energy security given the current unpredictability of the global economy that can affect these two major commodities," he stressed.
To promote energy security, Cui cited short-to long-term programs that the government is undertaking among which are promotion of alternative fuels and renewable energy, promotion of indigenous energy resources, pursuit of power reform and measures to ease impact of rising energy prices. These include reduction of tariff rates by P1.50 per liter effective June 8, 2008 pursuant to EO No. 691 S. of 2008; Provision of P1.00 per liter discount on diesel in "jeepney" lanes across 1,016 gasoline stations; reduction of import duties on critical spare parts; Katas ng VAT; and Pantawid Koryente.
To ensure food security, the Assistant Secretary reported that agricultural modernization have increased annual rice production in the past eight years (2000-2007) to 4.07%, faster than the 2.9% from 1990 to 2000 and the 2.2% from 1970 to 1990. Rice production has also grown faster than population which grew by an average of 2.04 % from 2000-2007.
Another is the implementation of a three-pronged strategy to achieve 98% rice self-sufficiency in 2010 and 100% in five years. These are the implementation of the FIELDS or Fertilizer, Irrigation and Infrastructure, Education and Extension, Loans and Insurance, Dryers and other post-harvest facilities, and Seeds," suspension of conversion of rice lands for two years under Administrative Order 226 issued by the President on May 16, 2008 and opening of rice importation to the private sector which would also free up government resources.
To ensure that low priced commodities reach our poor countrymen, the government is also implementing several programs such as establishment Barangay Food Terminals, Food for School program, rice buy back scheme, botika ng barangay, Pantawid Pamailyang Pilipino Program, Passage of Tax Exemption for Minimum Wage earners, and Cabinet Stewardship of Livelihood and Energy Employment Projects.
These and all other programs should be communicated effectively to the grassroots, he said while calling for partnership with the Information officers as well as private sectors as the key to success.
"Food and fuel security cannot be done by government alone. It is everybody's concern. We need you to help your country weather this global storm." he said. (PIA-7) [top]