A lawmaker has filed a bill for the establishment of an Agricultural Weather Office in the Department of Agriculture (DA) to minimize the losses caused by extreme changes in weather conditions.
Rep. Delphine Gan Lee of Agri party-list reiterated the necessity for a weather office in the wake of the rice crop damage left by Typhoon Santi.
“Every year, agricultural crops worth millions of pesos are lost and damaged by such unforeseen weather disturbances. These losses are caused by the lack of weather information which will enable agricultural producers to take the necessary precautions against natural calamities,” she stressed.
Gan Lee said the bill “seeks the establishment of an Agricultural Weather Office (AWO) which shall be responsible for the collection and distribution of weather information that will address the needs of agricultural producers.”
If passed, the AWO would be tasked “to plan and administer the National Agricultural Weather Information System.”
The law would mandate the DA, through the AWO, to collaborate with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and other related government agencies to support operational weather forecasting and observation useful in agriculture; sponsor joint workshops about the optimum utilization of agricultural weather and climate data; develop improved computer models and computing capacity; enhance the quality and availability of weather and climate information needed by agriculturalists; and obtain standardized weather observation data collected through regional Agricultural Weather Information Systems.
Initial estimates of damage caused by Typhoon Santi to rice harvests have been pegged at P3 billion. Despite NEDA’s recommendation to import an additional half million metric tons of rice, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala maintained that the government has no plans of importing additional stocks of rice.
However, Roehlano Briones, a senior research fellow of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, said the government should adopt a more open policy toward rice importation.
“Even without the devastation, we need a more open policy toward rice importation. The impact of Typhoon Santi makes it even more necessary,” he said, adding that importation would help lower the price of rice.