• Govt urged: Help farmers prepare for El Niño

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    A WEEK after what is referred to as “Farm Month,” a former lawmaker has urged top agriculture officials to prepare the agricultural sector for the potential problems to be brought about by the El Niño weather phenomenon that could lead to droughts in the country.

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    “Our country has to brace for more natural calamities in the months to come, but aside from these we have to prepare for the El Niño, which is a potentially bigger threat to our crops,” warned former Rep. Benny M. Abante, Chairman of the Bayan Mamamayan Abante Movement.

    The El Niño is a weather phenomenon that results in the warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific, which affects wind patterns that can trigger both floods and drought in different parts of the globe, affecting food supplies in affected areas. According to State weather bureau and other climate change experts, the country should expect extended droughts from September until April next year as a consequence of the El Niño.

    Abante explained that “if the government is having trouble sourcing the funds necessary to import rice to address the rising prices of rice and other agricultural goods because of scarcity of supply in the market, what will happen when damage to crops increase and supplies are further reduced because of the El Niño?”

    The former legislator called on Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Kiko Pangilinan to be proactive in the face of the possibly disastrous effects of the El Niño and other climate-change influenced weather disturbances on food security and local food supplies.

    “Let’s learn from our past experiences. We already know that the shortage and high prices of agri products today are the results of typhoons that hit us last year, so it is up to the government to come up with a preemptive response to these problems,” explained Abante.

    “If government failed to consider these weather disturbances in our agri budgets last year, then it should be ready to fund the necessary irrigation ad infrastructure requirements needed to address these weather problems this year.”

    Abante stressed that the government should pay more attention to the agriculture sector as even Vice President Jejomar Binay has lamented that the lackluster performance of the agriculture sector was a “tragedy,” considering the vast scope of the sector, its contribution to the national economy, and the millions of Filipinos depending on agriculture for their livelihoods.

    “Common sense and my 20-year experience as a local executive and the last four years as the second highest official of the land tell me this: while we need to develop and start structural reforms that will benefit agriculture on a national scale, we need to mount ground level initiatives that benefit the poor of our country,” the Vice President said last month at the awarding ceremony of the Landbank of the Philippines’ 24th Gawad Para Sa Pinakatanging Kooperatiba.

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