MANILA – As more farmers cannot cultivate their land due to the dry spell brought about by El Nino, senatorial re-electionist Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Friday suggested that the government hire them to repair and rehabilitate the irrigation systems and provide them income while they cannot work on their land.
“Hindi makapagtanim o makapag ani ang mga magsasaka natin dahil tuyong-tuyo ang lupa. (Our farmers cannot cultivate or harvest due to the dry earth). During this period, we should provide our farmers replacement income and hire them in the ongoing repair and rehabilitation of irrigation canals,” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
Pangilinan said the National Irrigation Administration, with the help of the local government units, can prioritize this temporary employment program and start identifying the farmers who can be hired for the job.
“Strategically, not only with El Nino, but with climate change, this and other measures like an agriculture and fisheries calamity fund separate from the general calamity fund should be par for the course,” he said.
“In the aftermath of the typhoons, according to the NDRRMC, ang mga pinakamahirap ay siya pang pinaka napipinsala tuwing bagyo(the poorest are the most affected by the destruction brought by typhoons),” he said, referring to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Highlighting that most of the poor are farmers and fisher folk in the rural areas, Pangilinan said, “We should be able to immediately respond. Our target is to have the farmer and the fisherman gainfully earning soon after disaster struck.”
El Nino, an abnormal weather pattern caused by the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator that occurs every 3 to 7 years, has brought drought in the country, particularly in the provinces covered by Northern Mindanao and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Northern Mindanao or Region 11 is composed of Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, and Davao Occidental, while ARMM consists of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Association has projected that the dry spell will be extremely experienced in the country, particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao regions in the first half of this year.
Based on the information released by the Department of Agriculture (DA) last month, damage brought by El Niño has already reached some P4.7-billion in the agriculture sector alone, equivalent to 349,620 metric tons of crops destroyed and 121,490 farmers affected.
The dry spell started September last year, affecting some 85 percent of areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.