DESPITE the serious threat of the El Niño on the country’s food security and economy, the government has not allotted a single peso in the P3-trillion proposed 2016 budget to mitigate the effects of the severe dry spell in the country.
This was disclosed on Friday by Senate President pro-tempore Ralph Recto, who said that there is no item in the 2016 proposed national budget labeled as El Niño mitigation fund.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on August warned that the present moderate El Niño conditions could intensify by the end of the year and even surpass the strength of the 1997-1998 event, which was the worst El Niño episode in the Philippines.
The 1997-1998 El Niño episode caused severe drought in 70 percent of the country and damaged some 292,000 hectares of rice and corn plantations. It cost the agriculture sector at least P3 billion in damages.
El Niño conditions, according to weather bureau, could intensify starting this month (October) and peak by November or December.
While Recto admits that there are funds in the next year’s budget that can be tapped to mitigate the effects of the climate phenomenon, he insisted that it would be better that such funds be “classified from the very start as an El Niño fighting fund.”
Recto is proposing that “El Niño adaptation programs” be written into the language governing the use of farm and disaster budgets for 2016 including the P53.4 billion for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the P5 billion in budgetary support to six DA-attached agencies; P38.4 billion for the four agencies under the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization; and the P38.9 billion Calamity Fund.
“In all, there’s almost P131 billion next year from which funds for El Niño mitigation can be drawn. The next step is to create specific mandates in each for El Niño abatement,” Recto said.
“All efforts must be done to shield the farm sector from the withering effects of El Niño as it accounts for 11 percent of the GDP [gross domestic product],” he added.