MANILA – Malacañang has defended its response to the drought in Mindanao, saying it did enough to address the effects of the dry spell in the region.
Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview on Friday that since August last year, President Benigno S. Aquino III, through different government agencies, has initiated a response to the drought that was expected to hit the country.
The Palace official was responding to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s criticism of the President for not going to Mindanao to see for himself the impact of El Niño on the region and the people.
Some church leaders have also said that if the government listened to their suggestions, the Kidapawan protest would not have turned bloody.
Coloma said the President has given the highest priority to the government action against the ill effects of El Niño.
He said the President organized an El Niño task force at the Cabinet level to respond to the drought, and this was coordinated by then director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Arnesio Balisacan.
President Aquino specifically directed government agencies to ensure enough supply of rice, as well as potable and irrigation water, and see to it that public health is protected as the dry spell could affect human health, Coloma said.
“Sa lahat ng pagkilos ng pamahalaan, nakatutok ang Pangulo. Mino-monitor niya ang progreso nito. Naglaan ng sapat na pondo na ginamit naman ng iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan sa mga aktibidad na kagaya ng cloud seeding, pagtatanim ng mga drought-resistant crops, at pagkakaroon ng mga small water impounding para matubigan ang mga pananim,” he said.
The President also directed agencies to ensure that there is enough buffer stock of rice through importation by the National Food Authority, he said, adding that until now, the President monitors the government’s response to the effects of the El Niño phenomenon.
Coloma noted that it is necessary for the government to respond aggressively to the impact of the drought because the most affected are poor families in hard hit regions.
The President has not neglected his duty to give priority to communities needing help, he said, assuring that the government is ready to send support to areas that have not received government assistance.
“Kung mayroon mang mga lugar na hindi pa sapat ang naihatid sa kanilang tulong, handang gawin ng pamahalaan ang nararapat para mapunan kung anuman ang naging pagkukulang,” Coloma said.
The Palace official further said that although the President did not personally go to Kidapawan, he made sure that government agencies responded to the needs of the people in North Cotabato.
Coloma also said that there is no need for the President to comment or issue statements on the crisis in Kidapawan because local government officials and heads of agencies have been explaining to the public the actions taken by the government.
“Lahat po ng kagawad ng pamahalaan na mayroong sangkot diyan sa usaping ‘yan ay nagbibigay po ng inputs sa ating mga mambabatas. Dumalo naman po sila sa public hearing kahapon at tinitiyak po ng ating pamahalaan na makararating ang tamang impormasyon sa ating mga kababayan sa lahat ng pagkakataon,” he said.