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FORMER Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro of the Department of National Defense said the country has so much money now for military modernization under the care of Philippine economic managers.

He said that during the time of then President Gloria Arroyo when he was also the defense chief, the Philippines’ dollar reserve was big.

Political analysts said that had Teodoro won as president to succeed Arroyo, he could have also reduced foreign and domestic debts.

Teodoro said that our foreign debt ratio to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has a complicated formula but is one of the lowest in the world.

“So, we have a low foreign debt compared to other countries, especially this time that they need to reopen the economy, amid Covid-19 pandemic,” Teodoro said.

He gave three examples. In the Philippines, the ratio of foreign debts to GDP is 55 percent. In the United States, once the stimulus package proposed by President Joe Biden will be approved, 139 percent. Japan is 200 percent. Our neighbor Malaysia is 68 percent. India is 89 percent. That was before. “I think it will go up now because they will have to spend more since they have to recover from this Covid-19 pandemic that we are facing.”

He said this cannot be avoided and this is not a problem. The problem he can see now is not on where to get vaccines but the refusal of the people to be vaccinated.

“I am urging all Filipinos to be vaccinated. There must be a wide public information campaign that vaccination is important to fully reopen the economy,” Teodoro added.

In Cebu City, Mayor Edgardo C. Labella and Vice Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama are actively conducting vaccine awareness campaign.

“That is good. We support that nationwide. And I congratulate all local and national executives who educate our people about the vaccination campaign,” said Teodoro.

On the other hand, he said that increasing food production in the agricultural sector is one way of achieving abundance amid Covid-19 pandemic.

“The people in the rural areas are not following health protocols like social distancing, hand washing, face mask, among others. They should first be vaccinated. Secondly, the government has assistance to increase agricultural productivity. There must be regional balance in food production. Some provinces are growing rice and corn, the others are livestock. In the Visayas are aquaculture and other specialty agricultural products. In Mindanao, there is the world-renowned chocolate and other agricultural produce.

So, there must be locally targeted assistance to farmers. Thirdly, price stability on food. The farmers must have food prices of harvests to increase their income. The government must give assistance to farmers to stabilize prices, he said.

If the prices are high in the market and no middleman taking advantage, the farmers’ income will increase. But food security may decrease. So, there must be a balance. The government must give subsidies to farmers to stabilize prices especially now that we are facing pandemic, Teodoro said.

Teodoro agreed that water is people’s right. The Local Government Units LGUs) can be required to provide a water system in their jurisdiction.

But he said the funding mechanism is important to LGUs which will provide water system.

“They may put it in the risk reduction budget or give prizes to LGUs which construct its own water system. The water system will depend on water sources, size, and passage of pipelines. So, there may be LGU clusters. Some LGUs are mountainous, and the consumers are few and they cannot earn from their water system. Hence, we need to build a scalable water system,” Teodoro said.

“But it is the right of all people to have clean and potable water,” Teodoro added.