INQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 09:17 AM June 22, 2011
MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Tuesday urged the government to reconsider its plan to privatize the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) complex in Taguig City in view of spiraling food prices and focus instead on boosting farmers’ incomes.
The chair of the Senate agriculture committee said privatization would defeat the goal of having a food terminal where farmers could drop off their produce which would then go straight to the market.
“The biggest market locally is Metro Manila and direct access to that market would mean better prices for the consumer and higher incomes for a sector that remains poor,” Pangilinan said.
He said the government should rethink the sale of the FTI complex since world food prices have been rising since 2008. It should instead find creative ways to “retool” the complex.
“Let’s look at the objectives for selling the property. If it is for the benefit of the agricultural sector, then funds should be used to strengthen the capability of FTI in its role of providing access to markets,” he said.
“Let’s look for other more creative solutions to retool the FTI. Market access is key to upping our farmers’ incomes,” he said.
Finance officials said the administration was dead-set on privatizing the FTI complex, the state’s last major asset for disposal, this year.
With a P13-billion minimum price, selling the property is seen as crucial to boosting the economy, more than raising revenue for the government.
Bidding has failed several times because of the lack of investor interest. The government’s focus on public-private partnerships has also delayed the privatization.
Pangilinan said the government should reconsider FTI’s sale since public-private partnerships were gaining headway in addressing issues threatening the country’s food security.
“The government should reconsider the sale of the entire property in light of the critical effort at achieving food security and access to markets,” he said.
“We need to think and do things differently in light of a looming food crisis. Let’s explore the power of partnerships and do so in a way that would ensure the sustainability of our agricultural sector and an adequate and low-priced food supply to our people,” he said.
The 120-hectare FTI has been on the market since the Arroyo administration. - TJ Burgonio - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonio