Press Release
January 24, 2010


To avert a food production crisis resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon, Sen. Loren Legarda today filed a Senate resolution for an urgent inquiry into the policies of the government to counter El Niño and ensure food security.

Loren, chair of the Senate committee on food and agriculture, filed the resolution as the weather bureau has announced that the El Niño phenomenon or prolonged drought has already hit the Philippines and may last for six months until May.

The Department of Agriculture has also warned that the prolonged drought would drastically cut down the production of local crops, like rice, corn, sugar cane, vegetables and other agricultural products.

Officials say three provinces in the central region have started to feel the effects of the El Nino phenomenon by having below normal rainfall. The provinces of Capiz, Aklan and Guimaras in the central Philippines have had below normal rainfall since August and have already started experiencing drought.

In her resolution (P.S. Res. No. 1540), Loren asked the Senate to direct the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Committee on Climate Change to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the government's policies and programs to address the effects of El Niño.

The purpose of the inquiry is to recommend policies and programs to institute "robust adaptation strategies to enhance food security and alleviate rural poverty," Loren said.

She stressed that climate change, which includes the El Niño phenomenon, presents severe problems for a country that is highly reliant on agriculture for livelihood and sustenance;

"Changes in temperature, rainfall and sea level would be disastrous to the agricultural sector. Crop yield potential is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield in the Philippines would decline by 75%," Loren stated in the resolution.

Loren said the Philippines is periodically affected by the El Niño phenomenon that induces prolonged wet and dry seasons, leading to a dramatic drop in agricultural production. From 1990 to 2003, the damage due to El Niño-related drought was estimated to be more than $370 million. This included a decrease in fisheries yield;

Loren noted that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa) has warned of a long drought in 2010 due to the El Niño phenomenon. Hence, policies on climate adaptation "are crucial and urgent".

"The agricultural adaptation program must ensure more investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, improved water governance and land use policies, better forecasting tools and early warning systems and a strengthened extension system that will assist farmers to achieve economic diversification and access to credit to make significant improvements in our food security goals," Loren explained.

Therefore "it is incumbent upon Congress to institute policy solutions to enable the agriculture sector to adapt rapidly to the impact of climate change and to safeguard poverty reduction gains in the rural areas," she declared.

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