• Food, farm projects need fast tracking

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    Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the government should “act fast” and avoid delays on projects that deal with food security and disaster mitigation.

    In a statement, Balisacan cited the unexpected destruction by Super Typhoon Yolanda, saying that the government should act fast on disaster preparedness that threatens the country’s food security goal in line with the government’s 100-percent food security goal that is included in the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Program (PDP).

    “Every delayed response entails cost and forgone opportunities that may further derail us from achieving our development goals,” said Balisacan, who is also the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

    “[That’s why] we need to act fast to provide the enabling mechanisms and instruments that would allow everyone to participate in enhancing the country’s resilience to climate and disaster risks,” he added.

    The Department of Agriculture’s Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program under the PDP aims “to increase areas suitable to palay [unmilled rice]production as a primary strategy in achieving 100-percent rice self-sufficiency by 2014 and beyond.”

    “However, the changing climate . . . blurs our prospects of attaining food security. Agriculture, which serves as the country’s backbone in achieving food security and a major contributor to the economy, is highly vulnerable to the effects of inclement weather and other climate-related phenomena,” Balisacan said.

    The NEDA chief further said that 74 percent of natural disaster destructions were in the agriculture sector, citing that Yolanda caused the loss of 1.1 million metric tons of crops and damaged 600,000 hectares of agricultural lands.

    “These losses and damages are expected to continue to reflect in forgone production of the early 2014 crop season,” he said.

    Balisacan earlier said that disasters should be treated as the “new normal,” because the country is prone to extreme natural calamities.

    “We cannot stop them from happening but we can at least be ready to mitigate their negative impact. We need to make full use of relevant data sets, models and scenarios in our development planning and decision-making processes toward making our agriculture sector more resilient to the changing climate,” he said.

    According to him, a project currently in the works—“Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change in the Philippine Agriculture Sector”—would aim to present various models and scenarios on climate change to raise awareness. It would also touch on food security, agricultural growth and other inputs to the national development planning process.

    Agencies working on the project include the NEDA, International Food Policy Research Institute, as well as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research through the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

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