MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday said the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine posed economic, trade, and human resource implications to the country and the Filipino people.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, also the acting presidential spokesperson, said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gave assurances that mitigating measures and contingency plans will be put in place as part of the government’s pro-active response to the Russia-Ukraine war.
"The Palace joins the country and the entire world in praying for an early and peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine," Nograles said during the Laging Handa public briefing.
Nograles reiterated the position of the Philippines, "that war benefits no one, and that it exacts a tragic, bloody toll on the lives of innocent men, women, and children in the areas of conflict."
"The conflict in Ukraine has economic, trade, and human resource implications for our country and for our people. As we monitor the current situation, every Filipino has the right to know what the government is doing to prepare for any eventuality," he added.
Nograles said Duterte met with his Cabinet members on Tuesday night, along with the top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and other high-ranking officials, to discuss possible scenarios and measures should the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict continue and will escalate.
Duterte approved the recommendation of the country's economic team to strengthen the domestic economy, stabilize food prices, provide social protection, and explore diplomatic channels to help resolve the conflict.
Boost local food production
Nograles said Duterte has also agreed to the recommendations of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to boost local food production to ensure food stability in the Philippines.
The government targets to further increase food production through its "Plant, Plant, Plant" Part Two program by increasing rice buffer stock not less than 30 days; providing financial assistance to rice farmers; addressing price hikes on fertilizers by providing fertilizer subsidy; and ensuring market access through bilateral discussions with other fertilizer-producing countries.
Nograles said Duterte has also approved the DA's recommendation to distribute fuel discount vouchers to farmers and fisherfolks to address the issues of increasing fuel prices in the country.
He added that the government will also intensify crop production, boosts research on reducing feeds prices, and provide logistical support such as food mobilization from high-production provinces to cities.
Through the "Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita" program, the government will push for the deployment of Kadiwa mobile vans or trucks and subsidies on the transportation cost of basic commodities.
"Kung kinakailangan, nakahanda ang pamahalaan na isakatuparan ang implementasyon ng (If needed, the government is prepared to carry out the implementation of the) Price Control Law," Nograles said.
"We shall likewise continue talks with our partners and heighten negotiations with non-traditional partners to address threats to agricultural exports while improving our digital agricultural infrastructure and systems," he added.
He also said Duterte approved the recommendations of the Department of Energy (DOE) to implement the PHP2.5 billion worth of Pantawid Pasada, and PHP500 million worth of subsidy under the fuel discount program for farmers and fisherfolk, to ensure there's enough supply of oil in the country.
Nograles said, "the DOE will continue to monitor the sufficiency in supply and quality and will make sure there will be no short selling."
Review of Oil Deregulation Law
The Palace also called on the Congress to review the Oil Deregulation Law, particularly provisions on unbundling the price, and the inclusion of the minimum inventory requirements in the law, as well as giving the government intervention powers/authority to intervene when there is a spike and/or prolonged increase of prices of oil products--as part of the government's medium-term measures.
The government is also eyeing the building of the strategic petroleum reserve infrastructure, ensuring Minimum Inventory Requirements, and advocating for energy conservation and efficiency.
The Department of Trade and Industry's recommendations to accelerate renewable energy adoption; support investments in Utility-Scale Battery Storage to maximize utilization of renewable energy sources; support investments in modern storage facilities for oil and grains to increase within-the-border holding capacity; and empower the private sector to help in strategic stockpiling will be put in place, as further approved by the President.
Nograles said the AFP and the PNP also gave assurances that government troops, as well as the Philippine military and police assets, are on stand-by, noting that they have respective contingencies prepared for any conflict developments.
"In conclusion, we appeal for an immediate end to the unnecessary loss of life, and call on the states involved to forge an accord that can help prevent a conflagration that could engulf a world still struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic," Nograles said.
"The course of history and the fate of our world will be shaped by the decisions that will be made by its leaders. We are one in prayer, together with all peace-loving citizens, that they be guided by wisdom and a genuine desire to save lives, establish harmony among neighboring nations, and forge a just and lasting peace for humanity," he added.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar lauded Duterte’s approval on DA’s recommendations to boost local food productions during the meeting in Malacañang.
“We should help our farmers and fishers to be more productive, and earn decent income,” Dar said. "It is imperative and urgent for the Philippine government to ensure that we have adequate, affordable and accessible supply of basic food items, and agricultural inputs to ensure continued productivity and increased incomes of farmers and fisherfolk.”
Dar said high fuel prices directly impact the cost of farm inputs, fertilizers, feeds, and biologics.
“With current global oil prices exceeding USD100 per barrel, the President approved our requested budget for the Plant, Plant, Plant Program Part 2,” he said.
He said the DA through its Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) is currently holding bilateral discussions with fertilizer producing countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Qatar, and China to mitigate the anticipated effect of the war on the global fertilizer market.
“We are now working closely with the Department of Budget Management (DBM) on the proposed realignment of our 2022 budget to ensure more effective and targeted utilization of funds,” Dar said.
He also welcomed the decision of Duterte to transfer back the oversight of the National Irrigation Administration to the DA for better water management and crop scheduling.
“Finally, we enjoin the provincial LGUs to tap the LandBank and the DBP, where they can apply concessional loans which they could use to buy palay from farmers, maintain rice buffer stocks, and establish their respective rice processing and storage facilities,” he said adding that the president will issue an executive order on the matter. (with reports from Christine Cudis/PNA)