MANILA – Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, called on several government agencies to provide assistance for farmers who would be affected by the prevailing El Niño in the country this year.
Escudero was disappointed with the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) failure to prepare and equip the agricultural sector for the dry season. The said agency was allotted P5 billion to help prepare farmers for the impact of the very dry weather conditions and improve irrigation facilities adaptable to dry months.
“The Department of Agriculture should be in the forefront of this, but based on our analysis, the DA has been very slow in responding to this issue as manifested by its underspending. It’s very slow in releasing funds for this purpose,” Escudero said in a Philippine Star report.
Doing more than pinpointing faults, Escudero urged the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to help address the potential problems El Niño may bring and minimize its damages.
“Our farmers are going to need all the help they can get in the coming months, and national agencies should be ready to work with local governments to pull our farmers through this difficult season,” he said in a press briefing.
When planting crops would only be futile, Escudero hoped that the TESDA could train farmers with technical and vocational skills that would enable them to resort to alternative livelihood during the dry spell.
And preparing for the worst-case scenario, Escudero urged the DSWD to include farmers and their families as recipients of the conditional cash transfer (CCT).
“The government has to be proactive and prepare for the worst-case scenario. Our farmers have to be given all kinds of assistance to make up for the projected crop losses because of the drying up of farmlands,” he added.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), for its part, has already cautioned that the country could experience intensified El Niño by October and would continue until December.