Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian questioned the P19-billion allocation for projects that would have reduced the effects of the El Niño phenomenon on thousands of farmers, particularly those hardest-hit in Mindanao.
“Our farmers have long been pleading for help but where did this allocation go?” asked Gatchalian, who had earlier condemned the violent dispersal of some 5,000 hungry farmers and their families who barricaded the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan City to dramatize their sad plight due to famine and hunger.
The 19-billion El Niño budget, which was green-lit by President Aquino in December last year, was meant to implement the “Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Niño”.
Included in the “roadmap” budget are aid to farmers and a cash-for-work program to give supplementary income in rural areas. The “roadmap” also seeks to boost rice production in areas that are less affected by drought.
“PAGASA has already warned about the development of El Niño way back May 2014 yet the government, until now, has not sufficiently and effectively implemented measures to protect vulnerable sectors, especially our farmers,” said Gatchalian.
“Medyo huli na nga itong pag-approve ng P19 billion allocation. Pero nasaan na ito kung kailan kailangang-kailangan na?,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian said what happened in Kidapawan City can happen again if the Aquino government remains callous on the plight of poor farmers, especially those who are most affected by the El Niño.
“These events should already be more than enough to push concerned agencies to implement prompt action to ramp up government aid in Mindanao, whose proximity to the equator makes it very vulnerable to the devastating effects of El Niño. The Cabinet task force responsible for ensuring there is adequate food and water supplies should step up because honestly, the situation is bound to get worse,” explained Gatchalian.
If elected to the Senate, Gatchalian vowed to immediately file his proposed “Agriculture Resilience Act”, which will promote strategic investments in infrastructure that would boost the resiliency of agricultural communities against the worsening effects of climate change.
Gatchalian noted that infrastructure projects for agriculture do not even have to be huge undertakings, citing innovation of Thailand for irrigation called “Monkey Cheeks” — networks of canals that lead to miniature dams or lakes designed to trap excess rainfall during the rainy season.
Gatchalian said such kind of infrastructure projects only require strategic surveying and planning. In fact, the canal and reservoir walls of Monkey Cheeks could be constructed from compressed soil, rocks, and stones.
“This goes to show that we can effect large changes through small and affordable interventions. Efficient irrigation does not have to be expensive,” he said.
“The drought underlines the fact that we have to manage our water resources better. We don’t necessarily have to look at big infrastructure projects to improve the manner, in which we manage and use our water resources. We can adopt readily implementable small-scale and medium-scale interventions to improve our water resource management capability,” concluded Gatchalian.