Recto says Marcos should update roadmap for El Niño amid looming threat
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his administration should update the roadmap crafted to address the risks of the El Niño phenomenon amid its looming threat, Batangas 6th District Rep. Ralph Recto said on Tuesday.
Recto, in a statement, referred to the Roadmap to Address Impact of El Nino (RAIN), a comprehensive strategy created by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) for the El Niño season from 2015 to 2016.
The lawmaker noted that the roadmap is existent, and all that needs to be done is to make it attuned to the current setup.
“Meron ng blueprint sa ganitong emergency. Kailangan lang ay to dust it off and brush it up, so it will be attuned to the unique characteristics of the 2023 version of El Nino,” Recto said.
(We have a blueprint for these kinds of emergencies. We only need to dust it off and brush it up, so it will be attuned to the unique characteristics of the 2023 version of El Nino.)
“One big motivating factor […] is that [El Nino] will hit a sector which is under his [Marcos] jurisdiction — agriculture,” he added.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), El Niño is characterized by unusually warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.
As an effect, below-normal rains are expected, which can cause dry spells and droughts in several areas of the country — affecting the growth of plants, crops, and even livestock.
While an El Niño is not officially underway, Pagasa last March 24 elevated its monitoring to an El Niño Watch, which means that there is a 55 percent chance of El Niño being declared between July to September 2023.
Recto noted that it is important for the government to act even before an El Niño is declared, as the agricultural industry has been suffering from different issues. For March, inflation slowed down to 7.6 percent after 14-year highs for January and February, but economic experts are still concerned given that prices of agricultural products and livestock feed are still high.
“Iyong agriculture natin, meron nang (Our agriculture industry has) preexisting comorbidities. On top of this is the recent combined fuel-fertilizer crisis. Foul weather should not be the third,” Recto said.
“Scarcity in water leads to scarcity in food. This is not an alarmist statement. It is a fact, because without water, you cannot grow food,” he added. “Umiinom ang hayop. At kailangan ang tubig upang panatilihing malinis at mapigilan ang sakit sa mga farms. May ASF (African Swine Flu) na nga sa baboy, tapos dadagdag pa ang kakulangan sa tubig.”
(Animals need water to drink. And we also need water to sanitize farms and prevent diseases. Pork is already affected by ASF, then water shortage also comes into play.)
The RAIN was formulated under the term of late former president Benigno Aquino III, after he directed his cabinet to come up with a detailed roadmap to counter the adverse effects of El Niño.
Aside from Neda and Pagasa, the following agencies were included in the council:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Trade and Industry
- Department of Finance
- National Food Authority
- National Irrigation Administration
The said council had the goal of mapping out action programs regarding the maintenance of food security and the sustenance of the farmers’ income.
This is not the first time that a lawmaker had urged the government to come up with an El Niño plan. Last March 28, Senator Nancy Binay asked the administration to bare a comprehensive plan to counter a possible water shortage in the country due to the phenomenon.