THE government has started implementing measures to fight the dry spell that has parched vast tracks of farmlands in Mindanao and Luzon.
The steps taken aim to shield the agriculture sector because government officials fear that a prolonged drought will lead to high prices of basic commodities such as palay (unhusked rice) and other farm produce.
On Sunday, Malacanang sounded the alarm on the onset of El Nino by alerting various agencies against the onslaught of the drought.
“Patuloy na pinaiigting ng pamahalaan ang mga paghahanda upang labanan ang epekto ng El Niño sa bansa at masiguro ang katatagan ng produksyon ng pagkain, partikular ang palay, sa iba’t ibang bukirin at sakahan [The government continues to intensify measures aimed to fight the effects of El Niño to ensure stable agricultural production],” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“Kumikilos na ang iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan sa pangunguna ng Kagawaran ng Agrikultura upang bigyan ng karampatang tulong ang mga magsasaka at manggagawa sa kabukiran, tulad ng pamamahagi ng mga drought-resistant na punla ng palay, maging ang pagsasaayos ng kanilang mga cropping season upang maiwasan ang mga tinaguriang disaster-prone na mga buwan alinsunod sa inilatag na El Niño mitigation and adaptation plan [Various government agencies led by the Department of Agriculture are taking steps to help affected farmers and farm helpers by distributing drought-resistant palay seeds and studying the changing of the cropping season to avoid disaster-prone months as proposed under the El Niño mitigation and adaptation plan],” Coloma added.
He said the Department of Agriculture and its attached agency, the National Irrigation Administration, have been instructed to ensure steady supply of water to farmlands as the water levels in dams and other sources of irrigation had started to dwindle.
“Handa namang magpatupad ang pamahalaan ng iba pang mga hakbang, tulad ng cloud seeding operations kung kinakailangan, lalo na sa mga lugar na nakakaranas ng matinding panunuyo ng pananim [The government is prepared to implement other measures such as cloud seeding operations in areas where there is drought],” the Palace official pointed out.
Coloma said farmers need government assistance for they already face income shortfalls because of the low prices of palay. In Nueva Ecija province, the farm gate prices of palay have dropped to as low as P14 per kilo.
He warned that if the drought persists, the prices of poultry products may also go up because the dry spell could result in lower production.
But Coloma gave assurances that the government will not allow the hoarding of goods. He said concerned agencies will monitor price movements and determine if any increase was justified.