Senator Cynthia Villar is in hot water once again after she urged the public to stop eating galunggong (round scad) — a catch once dubbed the “poor man’s fish” — and just eat vegetables instead if they found the price of the former too expensive.
The chair of the Senate committee on agriculture — and no stranger to comments that appear to indicate a deep ignorance of that field — Villar made the suggestion yesterday when asked for her thoughts on recently announced plans to import galunggong, the price of which has shot so high (to PHP300, or US$5.90, per kilo) that the once-affordable fish is now more expensive than chicken and pork.
“For me, if you find galunggong expensive, then don’t eat it, right? What I mean is, there are alternative foods that you can eat,” she was quoted saying by The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“Why do you love galunggong so much when there isn’t enough supply? That encourages the price to go up. Why don’t you just eat vegetables?”
The billionaire senator also attacked the Department of Agriculture for planning to import galunggong to bring down the price of the fish, long a beloved staple in middle- and lower-income households.
“That galunggong is too controversial. They want to import it so badly; someone even asked me for an import permit for galunggong. Why do you want it so bad?” Manila Bulletin quoted her saying.
It was early this month that the government announced its plan to import 45,000 metric tons of galunggong from China and Vietnam. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said the low supply of the fish was caused by the typhoon season, which prevented many Filipino fishermen from setting sail. A fishing ban imposed in Palawan to protect marine creatures from overfishing also contributed to the shortage, ABS-CBN News reported.
This is not the first time that Senator Villar, the frontrunner nationally in this year’s midterm Senate elections, said something that prompted eyerolls on behalf of the public. Two months ago, netizens attacked her for calling the Agriculture Department “crazy” because a portion of their budget goes to research. Oh, and she also took issue with the amount earmarked for frivolous stuff like, y’know, disaster assistance.
Villar — who, again, is in charge of the agriculture committee — made most of her money in the real estate game by buying and converting vast swathes of farmland into low-cost housing.