The Claim: The Philippines was able to attain self-sufficiency in food supply during Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s presidency.
The Facts: Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos Jr. implied in his inaugural speech that his father was the only president to have attained food self-sufficiency for the Philippines.
“Food self-sufficiency has been the key promise of every administration. None but one delivered. There were inherent defects in the old ways and in recent ways too. The trade policy of competitive advancement made the case that when it comes to food sufficiency, a country should not produce but import what other countries make more of and sell cheapest.”
Food self-sufficiency is a country’s ability “to meet consumption needs (particularly for staple food crops) from [their] own production rather than by buying or importing.”
Unless Lapulapu was president of the Philippines, trade and commerce have been the norm among countries and most of our present crops and food were introduced from other countries. When importation became inexpensive and population pressure was great, food self-sufficiency was no longer attainable. Now, globalization makes food self-sufficiency a thing of the past, except for truly autocratic regimes like North Korea where protectionism reigns.
Marcos Sr. implemented food programs like the Masagana 99 which aimed to achieve food sufficiency by strengthening rice and corn production, but this program and other programs related to agrarian reform were not successfully implemented.
Low rice supplies in the 1970s were due to strong storms that damaged the agricultural sector, such as Typhoons Edeng and Gloria which caused floods in central Luzon. After the storms, the country experienced a major drought. Other than that, tungro, a rice pest, contributed to low rice supplies.
Local rice production decreased by 17% in the 1970s. The government relied on the heavy importing of rice with 455,000 tons of rice being imported in 1972 from 10 tons in 1968.
The Philippines’ rice stocks were almost depleted by 1973, and the country faced a rice famine.
Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship brought famine to the country, such as the rice famine mentioned above, and the Negros Famine.
Marcos Sr.’s Philippine Sugar Commission (Philsucom) and National Sugar Trading Corporation (Nasutra) pushed sugar planters into deep debt. Over 190,000 workers lost their jobs and about 1 million people in Negros Occidental experienced famine.
Marcos’ dictatorship also brought higher poverty rates and inflation that reached 50%. These factors also affect a country’s capacity for food self-sufficiency.
This was also the reason why corn was substituted for rice in Visayas and Mindanao and the reason why Nutribun was introduced by the USAID to fight child malnutrition.
Why we fact-checked this: Claiming that food self-sufficiency was attained during the Marcos dictatorship disregards the experiences of the victims of famine in Negros and other parts of the country.
Photo from the Official Gazette.