Press Release
February 21, 2010

What has this Administration been in power for?'
Loren hits lack of political will on El Niño

"The government keeps on assuring us that the looming brownouts in Mindanao have no political basis. But can you blame people for being suspicious, particularly with elections just a few months away?"

That was the question of Nacionalista Party vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda as she arrived on Saturday in Manila from her Visayas campaign.

"I say the problem, in fact, has politics involved. It's caused by the lack of political will and foresight," Loren said. "It doesn't take a psychic to predict what problems this country will soon have. I can spell it out in two words - El Niño. No politics? So what has this administration been in power for?"

El Niño was one of the key issues she and running mate Manny Villar have been discussing with the people on Panay Island.

And she stressed it again in an interview a day earlier in an interview with a reporter at the Mactan International Airport.

"I can see that hunger incidents will rise by second and third quarter of this year," she said. "You don't have to be a surveyor or a pollster. I can see that hunger incidents will rise because of El Niño. Ayaw kong maging doomsday-sayer, pero yan ay nakikita ko lang o napo-project ko lang, because of our unpreparedness or ineffective implementation of the laws on environment."

Legarda, whose aim to be a "green vice president," pointed out that she has been warning about El Niño long before the election campaign.

"In my speech several years ago, yung sinasabi ko - kung ilang taon na ang climate change, El Niño," she said. "Time will come, believe me, when water will be more valuable than gold... At pagsisisisihan natin na sobra tayong sakim na mga tao. Hindi natin pinangalagaan ang kalikasan in the name of industrialization (And we will all regret that we have been too greedy. We didn't take care of the environment in the name of industrialization). We may have all the gold in the world, but if we don't have a healthy environment, we all die or lose our livelihood. Water will become a national security issue because it will become scarce."

What steps does she propose to take then?

"Our farmers are crying out loud," she said. "What can be done immediately is pantawid gutom. Yung cash transfers pantawid-gutom. Kailangang magbigay ang NFA (National Food Administration) ng bigas, kailangang magbigay ng doles-outs ang pamahalaan."

But that's just a short-term, stop-gap solution to what she thinks is a problem with a long-term effects.

What she wants is for key measures to be put in place to fight the impending drought, and the resulting lack of food supply - a total log ban and a reform of the irrigation system.

"The total log ban should have been in place a long time ago," she said. "And there IS a total log ban in all watersheds and protected areas but no effective implementation of the law. We are suffering from degradation of environment and total climate change."

Funding, of course, has always been a problem.

"My challenge to Malacañang is to produce money for the people who are hungry," she said. "They should produce money for the farmers because they can produce money for their politics."

She chided the Department of Budget and Management, particularly Secretary Rolando Andaya, for being so slow in the release of funds for various rehabilitation projects.

"Congress has been allotting funds," she said. "To be fair to the DA (Department of Agriculture), I talked to them and they said the funds for Ondoy and Pepeng have not been released since October. The funds for thoe affected by Typhoon Frank have not even been completely released. It's been two years."

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