By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol fears that another lengthy dry spell will hit the country in the latter part of the year, ordering his agency to set precautionary measures in case the forecast indeed takes place.
Piñol said on Tuesday that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will start laying down preparatory measures to protect the Filipino farmers and fishermen from the ill-effects of El Niño.
He issued the warning after the Australian Weather Bureau made a forecast that the Pacific Ocean could warm up again, projecting a long dry spell that could start as early as the end of 2017 or early 2018.
Piñol said the El Niño “could severely affect fish catch and destroy crops” again.
“The Philippines and other poor countries in the region will have to prepare for another climatic threat,” he said.
To ensure that El Niño will not hit the next harvest, Piñol said coordinative efforts with other agencies, especially the National Irrigation Administration, for the early release of irrigation water for the next planting season will be carried out.
He said the National Food Authority could also “fast-track its procurement program and import whatever would be the shortfall in the rice buffer stocks.”
The last time that El Niño hit the country from 2015 to the first quarter of 2016, the country’s agriculture sector declined by as low as 4 percent.
The long drought also resulted in the tragic Kidapawan City Massacre on April 1, 2016, Piñol recalled.
Three farmers who joined a mass action to demand rice supply from government were killed when police dispersal units fired shots at the demonstrators.
Part of the preparation that the DA would do is the establishment of Small Water-Impounding Systems (SWIS) and Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS).