Legarda Warns of Climate Risks Vs. Agri Growth, Poverty Reduction

August 20, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda raised concerns over the risks posed by climate change, which has been causing extreme weather events, in the growth of the agriculture sector and in addressing poverty in the country.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) already warned that climate change impacts will likely make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps.

During the briefing by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) on the 2015 National Expenditure Program (NEP), Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the dismal 0.9% growth in agriculture for the first quarter of 2014 was partly due to disasters, particularly supertyphoon Yolanda.

In line with this, Legarda expressed support in improving public investments in agriculture, such as irrigation, and pouring more funds in research and development.

“The country’s agricultural adaptation program must ensure more investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, improved water governance and land use policies, better forecasting tools and early warning systems, a strengthened extension system that will assist farmers to achieve economic diversification, and access to credit and crop insurance to make significant improvements in the country’s food security goals,” she stressed.

Legarda has already warned of the ill effects of disasters and climate change to the country’s rice and crop production because both strong typhoons and droughts affect the agriculture sector.

The Senator said that past experiences have proven this fact. Typhoons, floods and droughts from 1970 to 1990 resulted in an 82.4% loss in total Philippine rice production; while the El Niño-related drought experienced in the country from 1990 to 2003 was estimated to have caused US$ 370 million in damages to agriculture.

Meanwhile, Legarda said she is hopeful that the government will be more proactive with its disaster resilience and climate change adaptation programs, as it has recognized that the war against poverty will be much harder if disaster vulnerability remains unaddressed.

“Disasters are greatly felt by the poor because the effects are magnified in their life. For many Filipinos, every single day of work is synonymous to survival. When impassable roads due to heavy downpour prevent a daily wage earner from going to work, it would mean no earnings for the day, no food on the table,” she said.

In this regard, she said that the government can look into how its social protection programs can be scaled up to not only address structural poverty, but also build resilience against the recurring impact of natural hazards.

“We cannot let disasters keep the poor forever poor. We cannot let recurrent disasters take away from our people the little that they have in life. Building resilience must be at the heart of the country’s social protection program,” Legarda concluded.