By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times
As dozens of provinces start reeling from the impact of El Niño, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has appealed to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to help farmers hit hard by drought and not let politics get in the way of assisting them.
Marcos on Friday said the DA must put to good use the P2.1 billon earmarked to assist farmers affected by the dry spell and spur agricultural production in the first quarter of 2016.
“With the onset of the political season, the DA must take special care to ensure that mitigation efforts for El Niño must be di-rected to those who really need it most, not just because some politicians requested to divert the assistance programs in their areas,” the senator added.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said around 40 percent of the country or 32 provinces will feel the brunt of El Niño before the country’s weather condition returns to normal by mid-2016.
“A lot of farmers and their families in the provinces affected by El Niño are going to suffer if the DA won’t be able to deliver on its promise,” Marcos said.
He noted that 70 percent of the country’s poor belong to the agricultural sector.
Palay (unhusked rice) and corn farms suffered the most from the long dry spell.
The DA said it has prepared measures to lessen the impact of El Niño, including embarking on small-scale irrigation projects and building of rainwater harvesting and drainage facilities for rain-fed agricultural lands.
The department also distributed drought-resistant palay and corn seed and assisted farmers in adjusting their cropping season.
Marcos, however, said the government should ensure that these measures are carried out.
“The plan looks good but the real test is in the implementation. Let’s help those who really need it and give them what they really need most,” he added.