MANILA – A minimum rice reserve equivalent to the amount all Filipinos consume in 15 days should be established, said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Wednesday, as the threat of a weak La Niña looms.
“Kailangang masigurong mayroon tayong sapat na suplay ng bigas bilang paghahanda sa maaaring pagpasok ng La Niña na magdadala ng hindi pangkaraniwang pag-ulan (We must ensure that we have enough rice supply as preparation for the possibility of La Niña which can bring abnormal amount of rains),” Pangilinan said.
La Niña is the cool phase of the natural weather pattern EL Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) characterized by strong monsoon activity, an increase in tropical cyclones, and above-average rain fall.
Several international meteorological agencies are closely monitoring the possibility of a La Niña phenomenon following the end of the El Niño last June. There have been 14 La Niña events since 1950, whereas El Niño have occurred 23 times. According to PAG-ASA, there is a 55-60% probability of a weak La Niña forming this year.
Pangilinan said farmers and the agriculture sector will bear the brunt if La Niña occurs, and may suffer more as they are still recovering from El Niño.
“Tuwing may sakuna, doble ang epekto sa ating mga magsasaka. Hindi lamang dahil apektado ang kanilang mga pananim na nalulubog sa baha, kundi pati na rin ang kanilang kita (Our farmers are doubly affected whenever disaster strikes. Their produce are hindered by flooding and, at the same time, depresses their income),” he said.
STRATEGIC RICE RESERVE
In order to mitigate the crippling effects of a possible La Niña, Pangilinan is proposing a measure that will establish a strategic rice reserve that will help ensure food security in times of calamity.
“Hindi mawawala sa hapag-kainan ng mga Pilipino ang kanin. Bilang paghahanda sa nalalapit na tag-ulan, kailangang masigurado natin na sapat ang suplay ng bigas at ito ay mabibili sa abot-kayang halaga tuwing may sakuna (Rice is a staple food of the Filipinos. As preparation for the rainy season, we must ensure that there is enough supply that is easily accessible and affordable especially during the aftermath of calamities),” Pangilinan said.
The Strategic Food Security Rice Reserve Act of 2016 will ensure that there will be a steady and ample supply of rice year round (equivalent to 15 days national rice consumption) at affordable prices. This will be controlled by the government through the National Food Authority (NFA), and released to the market as soon as the President declares a State of Calamity through the recommendation of the Agriculture Secretary.
Pangilinan, previously the chairman of the NFA council during his stint as the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (May 2014-September 2015), added that the stock will be procured from small farmers and farmers’ cooperatives to strengthen their grains marketing activities.
“Ito ay kabilang sa aming mandato para masiguradong lalaki ang kita ng ating mga magsasaka (This is consistent with our mandate to help ensure that our agricultural programs are prioritizing the increase in income of our farmers),” he said.
A weak La Niña may develop towards the end of the year. PAG-ASA is expecting 9-15 tropical cyclones to develop or enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility within the same period.
The recently concluded El Niño resulted in more than P4 billion worth of agricultural damages as of February 2016.