MANILA, Aug. 25 (PNA) — An inter-agency government panel is expected to submit within two weeks the results of its study on the impact of the severe El Niño problem on the country’s food production and supply situation, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
Alcala and Pangilinan expounded on the government preparations for El Niño during the hearing Tuesday of the House Committee on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab on the Php53.38 billion budget proposal for 2016 of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Rep. Agapito H. Guanlao (Party-list, Butil), chairman of the Committee on Food Security, raised questions on the interventions and preparations being undertaken by the government to mitigate the impact of the El Nino problem on the country’s food supply and production.
Pangilinan said in a meeting last August 17, President Benigno Aquino III tasked the inter-agency committee on food security to study and estimate the possible impact of El Niño on the country’s food production.
“At present, the committee on food security is still gathering information, and I would like to think that in the next two weeks it will come out with computations based on data gathered on the ground and recommendations,” said Pangilinan.
He said the inter-agency body is composed of representatives of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Department of Finance (DOF).
“We will inform the appropriations committee as soon as the study and recommendations are finalized by the inter-agency committee,” said Pangilinan.
He said in the same meeting with the President, the DA presented interventions in preparing farmers for El Niño which is expected to affect the country in September. The interventions include providing farmers with rice varieties that have short gestation periods and are drought-resistant.
Likewise, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) also presented its own preparations program, according to Pangilinan.
Guanlao also queried on the DA budget for mitigating the El Nino impact.
Alcala said the DA will use funds from the 2015 budget for its intervention programs this year.
“There is no allocation for it (El Nino) in the 2016 budget, the funding has not yet been included in the 2016 budget. Dapat po kasi yung solusyon para sa kasalukuyan ay magamit within this year,” said Alcala.
Earlier, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a briefing that over the next 12 months, El Niño may affect the food security “of a large number of already vulnerable people who are dependent on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods in Central America, most of Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.”
Of the Php53.38 billion budget proposal of the DA for 2016, some Php3.07 billion shall go to personnel services, Php30.32 billion to maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), Php2.04 million to financial expenses and Php19.99 billion to capital outlay. (PNA)