THE government should immediately create an inter-agency body in charge of carrying out study and action plans that will address impacts of El Nino on the country, Sen. Francis Escudero said on Friday.
According to Escudero, the inter-agency body should be composed of representatives from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Water Resources Board (NWRB), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), Climate Change Commission, private water concessionaires and experts who may be able to help the government come up with a solution.
“Water interruptions and shortages are already disrupting day-to-day activities of Filipinos.The condition of waterless hospitals and health facilities is a major source of concern as early as now,” he noted.
The senator earlier criticized the Agriculture department for its failure to do its job in mitigating effects of El Nino, despite funds that it was allocated by Congress last year.
Escudero said the DA, which was supposed to be in the forefront of addressing the El Nino problem, has been very slow in responding to this issue as manifested by its underspending.
He also noted that Congress allotted around P5 billion this year to the Agriculture department for it to address the problem through interventions such as the Small Water Impounding Project, which was meant to improve irrigation facilities in preparation for the dry months.
But the DA, Escudero said, did nothing.
He added that an inter-agency body must be created to map out the situation in El Nino-affected areas and propose viable solutions to expected short-term, mid-term, and long-term effects of El Nino.
The senator said government agencies should present well-thought out contingency measures to alleviate difficult living conditions in the country, which will be exacerbated by water shortages and power interruptions.
Escudero, an independent candidate for the vice presidency in the 2016 elections, expressed concern that the problem of insufficient water supply may fall on the sidelines as poll fever hits many government officials.
“An inter-agency body will ensure that someone is always on top of the problem. Water is vital to our everyday life, and we cannot allow the lives and businesses of millions of Filipinos to cease while government officials are busy with their political plans,” he said.