October 19, 2010
Senator Kiko Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries, called for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to extend all possible forms of assistance and relief to farmers and agricultural workers most affected by Typhoon Juan. He also pushed for wider crop insurance coverage and strengthened crop insurance measures to protect farmers from the regular onslaught of typhoons in various parts of the country.
“Nananawagan kami sa DA na agarang maglabas ng anumang ayuda na maaari nating maibigay sa ating mga magsasaka. Alam natin na walang kalaban-laban ang mga magsasaka sa pinsalang dulot ng mga bagyong tulad ni Juan, at wala na silang ibang maaasahan maliban sa mga programang pinansiyal ng pamahalaan.”
On Monday night, the National Food Authority reported that “up to 70%” of unmilled rice crop in the northern Philippines could be damaged by Typhoon Juan.
News reports also quoted Andrew Villacorta, DA executive director in Cagayan Valley, as saying that estimated losses could go up to 159,000 metric tons, covering 88,000 hectares, in Isabela, and up to 63,000 metric tons (43,000 ha) in Cagayan province.
“Bukod sa DA, nananawagan rin kami sa mga punong-lalawigan na magtabi ng emergency funds at magbukas ng mga emergency loans na makatutulong sa mga nasalanta ng bagyong Juan,” Pangilinan said.
“We also need to start developing long-term, sustainable measures to address the usual threats faced by our farmers. The Philippines is battered by an average of twenty typhoons a year, yet we always seem to be caught by surprise when a storm hits. We ought to strengthen crop protection measures for our farmers, who are always the biggest losers when faced with natural calamities.”
An April 2009 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies revealed that “formal lending institutions and crop insurance were virtually non-existent in select farming communities” in Isabela. Further, “local usurers and loan sharks have long been profiting from smallholder agicultural workers through high-interest loans”, leaving farmers “up to their necks in debt.”
“Halos walang-wala na nga sa buhay ang ilan sa ating mga magsasaka, lalo pa silang nawawalan at tila inaabuso pa ng mga sakim at ganid,” pointed out Pangilinan, who is concurrently the chair of the Senate Committee on Social Justice and Rural Development.
Senator Pangilinan also reiterated his call for a comprehensive agricultural road map under the Aquino administration and a more effective risk mitigation system considering the country’s vulnerability to weather changes and its dependence on agriculture for livelihood.
“We really need to sit down and craft a more comprehensive review of agricultural policies under the Aquino administration, together with all concerned sectors,” Pangilinan reiterated.
“Our farmers need our help. We owe it to them. The state must care for those who break their backs day in and day out to feed our people, by providing state-funded progams that will help tide them over in the short run and raise their incomes and the quality of their lives in the long run.”