PH already had more than enough rice… in 1967
If today it seems farfatched for the Philippines to produce enough rice for Filipinos, there was actually a time in 1967 when the country actually met its then rice sufficiency target and was even able to export some to Indonesia.
In a column at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Menchu Aquino Sarmiento highlighted the achievements of former President Ferdinand Marcos’ first executive secretary, Rafael M. Salas, who designed the Rice Sufficiency Program in the 1960s.
Considered as “the best president the Philippines never had”, Salas is the reason why the Philippines had a surplus of 200,000 metric tons (MT) of rice in 1967.
“He worked beyond regular office hours, networked tirelessly and visited the hinterlands of priority rice-producing provinces by banca or carabao,” Sarmiento wrote.
“He summarily fired or floated erring public officials, regardless of political color or powerful kin, declaring: ‘The Philippine bureaucracy needs periodic forceful rebukes to prod it on’,” he added.
However, Salas eventually resigned from the Marcos Cabinet in 1969 to head the United Nations Fund for Population Activities and attributed the decline in rice production throughout martial law to the authoritarian government.
“The absence of legislative and electoral checks allowed the allocation of resources to unproductive sectors. The sustained investment needed in agriculture was lacking. Increased elitism ruptured the close ties between farmer and government once nurtured by the Rice Sufficiency Program,” Salas, as cited by Sarmiento, said.