Press Release
March 6, 2010


ILOILO CITY - SENATOR Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr. today urged the government to invest heavily in research of drought-tolerant varieties of rice to combat the food shortage brought about by El Niño phenomenon, which has become a cycle in the Philippines since 1980s.

"El Niño is weighing on our economic growth. The government has been reactive, if not passive, in addressing the dry spell problem, which has been plaguing us every three or four years," Bong Revilla said.

In Iloilo province alone, he cited that about P1 billion worth of rice crops were damaged from December 2009 to February. More than 30,000 hectares of land have turned barren and almost 29,000 were affected by the El Niño episode, which is expected to last by July.

"We need to empower national research and breeding programs by allocating enough funds and providing logistics in order to come up with new rice varieties that will cope with abnormal weather patterns, such as drought or flood-causing La Niña," the senator said.

He informed that the types of rice that the farmers are using are highly sensitive to heat and are dependent on water.

Scientists from PhilRice said that the mere increase of one-degree Celsius in temperature, rice yields decrease by 10 percent. To be able to grow one kilogram of rice, it needs about 3,000 liters of water.

While the senator appreciate the local government units and regional departments of agriculture's actions in addressing the farmers' woe by putting irrigation and lending water pumps, he stressed that these steps do not offer lasting solution to rice shortage problem.

"El Niño has become a cycle. We should not just sit and wait for a jarring situation to take place before we act," Bong Revilla said, adding "We cannot do something about the El Nino or the La Nina, but we can do something to cope with its effects."

At present, there are limited supplies of rice varieties. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the PhilRice have been conducting study on other varieties that will weather intense heat or flood.

Meanwhile, the senator lauded the local governments' initiative in educating farmers on what crops to plant during drought season and for teaching them to use science and technology in farming.

Among the plants that are thriving during dry season are mangoes, melons and onions.

News Latest News Feed