Gov’t braces for El Niño’s worst | Inquirer News

Gov’t braces for El Niño’s worst

/ 05:47 AM September 05, 2015

Preparing for the worst-case scenario, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is asking for almost P2 billion in supplemental funds to be able to respond to the El Niño weather phenomenon which could adversely affect the country’s rice supply.

Francis Pangilinan, Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, backed the request of the agriculture department, recalling that the El Niño, a weather phenomenon linked to drought and strong typhoons, affected the country in 1997-98 and resulted in a 25-percent drop in the country’s rice yield.


“So we need to prepare for the worst-case scenario in the event it will affect the (rice) supply,” Pangilinan told reporters at the Senate.

Weather forecasters have warned that the current El Niño, characterized by the unusual warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface, was expected to be the same, if not more severe than the one experienced 17 years ago.


But Pangilinan said one difference between then and now was that the government was “better prepared” and would intervene to mitigate the impact of El Niño, expected to peak from September this year to the first quarter of 2016.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, at the hearing on the proposed 2016 budget for his department, brought out the need for the P1.9-billion El Niño fund on top of its regular budget.

Senate President Franklin Drilon initially said this appeared to be too minuscule based on the previous production loss of P3.3 billion.

But Drilon, after noting that the DA still had P16.7 billion in unobligated funds from its 2015 budget, said there may be no need for the agency to seek the supplemental budget. It could accommodate the P1.9 billion from its unobligated funds.

Alcala had replied that the DA could not just realign funds because its budget had line items.

But Drilon said the DA had been “ultraconservative” and was implementing a “very, very conservative” reading of the Supreme Court decision on the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the realignment of savings.

He believed the DA could realign items within its own department with the approval of the President. Congress could pass a resolution authorizing the DA to use its savings to address the El Niño phenomenon. This could be done easily because there would be no need for additional funds, he added.

“My reading of your budget is you have enough to respond to the P1.9-billion budget you’re looking for as an El Niño fund by realigning,” he said.

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TAGS: Department of Agriculture, El Niño, Pacific Ocean, rice, Rice Supply
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