As disaster control officials continue to assess the damage brought by the year’s deadliest typhoon to hit Northern Luzon, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Saturday asked Malacanang and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release a supplemental budget so that the National Food Authority (NFA) can buy storm-damaged rice from the Lawin-affected farmers to ease their livelihood concerns.
“Tulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka. Tag-ani ngayon. Merong mga nakapag-ani bago pa ang Karen, bago pa ang Lawin. Kaya lang, ang balita namin, basa ang palay at binibili sa P10 kada kilo. Ang cost of production ay mga P12 kada kilo. Luging-lugi. Kaya yung iba, hindi na lang nagbebenta,” said Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
“Ibig sabihin, walang kita ang mga magsasaka natin. Nasalanta talaga. Kaya minumungkahi natin sa NFA na bilhin ang mga ito. But on its own, NFA cannot do this. NFA cannot buy with its own budget alone, as it is not even enough to buy 5% of regular dry palay, how much more storm damaged palay,” said Pangilinan, who briefly supervised NFA as Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization in the previous administration.
The Situation Report No. 4 of the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) issued Friday said damage to agriculture in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) is estimated at P26.16 million. Of the total, P17.192 million in rice, P2.16 million in corn, and P6.809 million in high-value crops. Kalinga suffered most at P10.8 million, mostly on rice; followed by Benguet at P5.5 million in high-value crops; and Abra at P5.34 million in rice.
“Hindi pa dumadating ang report mula sa Ilocos Region at Cagayan Valley. Balita namin, sila ang pinaka-apektado. Kailangan nating tulungan ang ating mga magsasakang nasalanta,” Pangilinan said.
“Pag lumabas na ang pangkalahatang report ng pinsala, baka kailangan na rin nating hingin sa Malacanang na mag-release ng supplemental budget para bilhin ng NFA ang mga palay na nabasa dahil sa bagyo,” he added.
As the affected regions are still experiencing rain, the Department of Agriculture can help support the farmers by distributing palay seeds to those affected so that they can plant immediately and hopefully harvest by January and February, the senator further suggested.
“For the National Irrigation Administration, it can help by providing cash-for-work for our farmers, as in repairing damaged canals,” Pangilinan said.
In the medium-term, NFA can also help through the drying facilities, Pangilinan said.
“Due to limited dryers available, NFA cannot accommodate all farmers. The government, either through the DA or NFA, can construct more drying facilities — the modern ones that can accommodate the volume and not the obsolete flat-bed driers that can only accommodate 1-2 cavans at a time,” he said.
Lawin was categorized as a super typhoon that reached up sustained winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 315 kph. It was compared to Yolanda, which wreaked havoc three years ago in November 2013.