Help For Drought-Hit Farmers

March 11, 2010

The government should take immediate steps to help the drought-stricken farmers, while making urgent repairs of irrigation and water impounding systems.
NP-NPC-LDP vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate agriculture committee, said the government must make sure the farmers and their farmlands will survive the El Nino phenomenon with enough emergency funds through a cash transfer program.
Legarda said the government should also give free NFA (National Food Administration) rice to the families of the more hard-hit farmers so they do not die of hunger.
At the same time, the government should extend technical assistance, like what farmers can plant during times of drought, the senator said.
β€œIt is critical now that we give extension support to our farmers, and provide them with technical and financial assistance,” Legarda said. β€œ For instance, we should start teaching them to plant drought-resistant crops.”
She reiterated that the government should now release the El Nino funds to farmers, which was programmed as early as October last year.
Only then, can the government undertake long- terms solutions, like tree-planting in watershed areas, Legarda said.
The senator also announced that her amendment to the Agri-Agra Law has been signed into law by President Arroyo four days ago, which will make more loanable funds from banks to farmers.
Legarda said her amendment now prohibits banks from using the purchase of government bonds as compliance of the Agri-Agra Law and will really have to extend cash loans to farmers, who need funds to recover from drought.
She said the government should have taken steps to prepare the farmers and their farmlands for the lEl Nino phenomenon but did not despite warnings as early as June last year that there will be drought this year.
However, finger-pointing and blame tossing should not be resorted to but adopt positive measures to make sure there are still enough Filipino farmers and farmlands, she said.