Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Protect people from El Nino’



‘Protect people from El Nino’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Around 600 families from five different indigenous communities in Honduras are facing starvation due to the loss of their crops, after they experienced severe droughts caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon. AFP

‘Protect people from El Nino’

Every two to five years, the story line is a familiar one – the Philippine weather bureau announces the onset of a dry spell, and the agriculture department counts the losses to crops as the days and weeks pass.

A seeming helplessness, and all that can be done is to pray for rain or wait for the El Nino weather phenomenon to end.

Last week, the country’s Department of Agriculture reported that damage to rice and corn farms alone due to the El Nino dry spell had reached 5.05 billion peso (nearly $97 million).

Its latest agricultural damage bulletin indicated that the drought has affected 164,672 farmers and 177,743ha of land.

The regions reeling from the drought practically cover the entire country, from the Cordillera Administrative Region and Ilocos in the north, down to Central Luzon and Bicol and going all the way south to Western and Eastern Visayas to Davao.

While the direct impact of El Nino is drought, it has other equally damaging effects – unemployment especially in the farm sector, food shortages because crop production is affected, and rising prices.

The state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) has warned that a prolonged dry spell due to El Nino could jack up food prices even in Metro Manila, which gets its food supply from the provinces.

Citing the latest report of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), Neda noted that mild to moderate El Nino conditions were forecast to occur from March up to October, and would weaken only in the last three months of the year.

The government can only adopt mitigating measures to alleviate the impact of the dry spell.

Last week, Neda announced the reactivation of the interagency El Nino Task Force (ENTF), which it heads, to ensure there are enough interventions to cushion the adverse effects of the drought.

RAIN

The ENTF will also revisit the 2015 Roadmap for Addressing the Impacts of El Nino (RAIN), which aims to lessen the catastrophic effect of El Nino on food and energy security, health and safety. It will be expanded to include water security among the areas of concern.

That roadmap helped the government succeed in mitigating the impact of El Nino in 2016, particularly in ensuring sufficiency in the supply of food and keeping food prices stable.

This was through production support such as irrigation and distribution of seeds in non-vulnerable and mildly affected provinces, timely importations to augment diminishing supply, and price controls in areas that declared a state of calamity.

Other efforts included programmes such as cash-for-work and emergency employment for the affected farmers.

The government also hired more contractual workers from the affected areas for its intervention measures.

Neda admitted then, however, that gaps remained in implementing RAIN, especially in empowering local government units (LGUs) to reach areas suffering the brunt of El Nino.

It cited reports of people who still suffered hunger due to the drought despite the rollout of government interventions to address the problems spawned by the calamity.

“While the supply of food and production and other types of support such as distribution of food packs seem enough, the challenge is in making the distribution system much more efficient so that these actually reach the affected families in a timely fashion. We need to consider that some of the services are devolved to LGUs and so we need to strengthen coordination with LGUs,” Neda pointed out.

Indeed, closer coordination with LGUs is crucial, especially in terms of identifying the areas that need more assistance.

But, with the upcoming elections next month, the public should be wary of politicians seeking local government posts who may be tempted to use these national government-initiated measures to win votes in their localities, exploiting the suffering of their poorer constituents to win loyalty and consequently their votes.

The calamity is real and requires remedies beyond political palliatives.

El Nino’s consequences are devastating enough without being compounded by the callousness and opportunism of those in a position to help its victims. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and

  • Cambodia detects new Covid cases after 52 days: PM

    After 52 days of zero new Covid-19 cases, Cambodia has now detected new infections, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In his special audio address to the nation late on June 28, Hun Sen said the new cases were detected on people who had undergone PCR tests

  • Cotton club growing in Battambang

    The global market for “vegan leather” – materials that act as alternatives to traditional leather that can be synthesised from cork, apple peels, cactus, recycled plastic, grape pomace and pineapple leaves, among other things, and supposedly require no chemicals or water to produce – is expected to