Amid a threat of another long dry spell called the El Niño, Secretary Manny Piñol said the Department of Agriculture “will lay down this early preparatory measures to protect the Filipino farmers and fishermen from its ill-effects.”
He sounded the warning after the Australian Weather Bureau warned that the Pacific Ocean could warm up again, projecting a long dry spell that could start as early as the end of 2017 or early 2018.
Piñol said the El Niño “could severely affect fish catch and destroy crops.”
“The Philippines and other poor countries in the region will have to prepare for another climatic threat,” he said.
Part of the preparation would be the establishment of Small Water-Impounding Systems (SWIS) and Solar-Powered irrigation Systems, Piñol said.
Already, P165 million is being readied for the SWIS, which includes cloud seeding during the early stages of the drought.
Piñol also revealed that on April 20, he would present a proposal to President Rodrigo Duterte that, among other things, calls for the immediate start of the Solar-Powered Irrigation System throughout the country.
Piñol added that he would request for a budget of P20-billion for agriculture for 2018 alone.
“Coordinative efforts” with other agencies, especially the National Irrigation Administration for the early release of irrigation water for the next planting season will be carried out, he said, “to ensure that El Niño will not hit the next harvest.”
He said the National Food Authority could also “fast-track its procurement program and import whatever would be the shortfall in the rice buffer stocks.”
The last time the El Niño hit the country, from 2015 to the first quarter of 2016, resulted in the negative performance of the agriculture and fisheries sectors, dipping to as low as -4%.
The long drought also resulted, Piñol recalled, “in the tragic Kidapawan City Massacre” on April 1, 2016.
Three farmers who joined a mass action to demand rice supply from government were killed when police dispersal units fired shots at the demonstrators.