Press Release
January 28, 2010

Villar calls for safety nets for agri sector

Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manny Villar yesterday called for safety nets for the agriculture sector as the country braces for the El Niño phenomenon.

"We know that the El Niño phenomenon will hit the country. As we anticipate a drought and a very dry summer, our agriculture sector will need safety nets to alleviate the impact of El Niño on our farmers and fisherfolk," Villar said.

The NP standard-bearer said a looming water shortage because of El Niño would severely affect agricultural output. The vast plantations in Central Luzon, for instance, rely on water from Angat dam in Bulacan for irrigation.

"As it is now, water for irrigation in Central Luzon is already being diverted to Metro Manila to domestic use. The situation will get worse and our farmers and their families will bear the brunt of El Niño," Villar said.

"Our country is still basically an agriculture economy. Close to 40 percent of the total population is employed in agriculture. They are the most vulnerable to the El Niño phenomenon," he added.

Villar said the government should look into providing a livelihood assistance fund for farmers and fisherfolk who will be affected by the El Niño phenomenon. Loans to be provided from this fund should carry very soft repayment terms, he added.

Agricultural production accounted for about a fifth of the Philippine economic output of $168.6 billion in 2008.

But economists fear that a severe El Niño may shave off as much as a percentage point off the gross domestic product (GDP), with some analysts revising GDP forecasts from four percent to 3.7 percent.

Agriculture Undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla said damage to crops and fisheries could reach P20 billion under a severe drought scenario.

Of the two million hectares of rice to be planted this year, about 543,844.8 hectares are expected to experience water shortage while 273,411.6 hectares of the 1.114,395 hectares of corn plantations would be affected by the El Niño.

Government data shows that El Niño also threatens around 16,992 hectares of fisheries and 3.804 million metric tons of vegetables.

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