President Duterte was speaking at the launching of the Hardin ng Lunas, a vegetable gardening project to help the families of the Presidential Security Group in Malacañang Park last Monday, when he announced he was reviving two food-production programs of former President Ferdinand Marcos – Masagana 99 and Biyayang Dagat.
Masagana 99 was the Green Revolution that promoted the planting of new varieties of rice developed by the International Rice Research Institute, with our farmers organized to carry out modern agricultural techniques using fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and irrigation. Biyayang Dagat was the Blue Revolution, the counterpart fishery production program, in which fishermen were similarly organized and extended loans to improve their production capacity.
Because of Masagana 99, the Philippines became self-sufficient in rice and was even able to export in 1977-1980. Production subsequently declined, blamed on the increasing consumption by our fast-rising population, along with El Niño dry spells followed by strong typhoons. Today, we import hundreds of thousands of tons a year to ensure we have enough rice for our people towards the end of the year.
Subsequent administrations tried to replicate the achievement of Masagana 99 but without success. The previous administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III repeatedly announced it was about to achieve self-sufficiency with new varieties of rice that were even more high-yielding, more resistant to drought and to floods. But the six-year term ended with continued high importations from Thailand and Vietnam.
President Duterte has now announced he intends to revive the food programs of President Marcos and with his Secretary of Agriculture Emmanuel Piñol, he should be able to reach that long-sought goal of rice self-sufficiency. We have today even better rice varieties with higher yields than ever before. The new administration is also out to provide free irrigation to farmers.
There is evidently today strong political will to encourage local production over importations that mostly benefitted certain business interests, not to mention smuggling. President Duterte was inspired by President Marcos’ Masagana 99 and Biyayang Dagat. With the newer, more productive, and more resistant varieties, and with the President’s well-known determination, we may soon realize our goal of self-sufficiency in rice and other fruits of our fertile land.