Rice-Less Pinoy Meals Loom, Loren Warns

January 4, 2013

MANILA, Philippines — Because of the inevitable change in the global climate, Filipinos should face the prospect of eating less or no rice at all to go with their meals.

This was the warning issued yesterday by the Senate Climate Change Committee chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda who said that Filipinos need to take aggressive and immediate action to adapt to the changing climate and prevent further rise in global temperature or prepare themselves for meals with no rice at all.

With President Benigno S. Aquino III having declared 2013 as “National Year of Rice,’’ the government’s efforts to achieve rice sufficiency should include programs that would address the agriculture sector’s vulnerability to the changing climate, Legarda said.

Legarda cited a 2009 study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that rice yields in the Philippines could decline by 75 percent in 2100 with the lack of climate change adaptation programs.

Such a scenario is not impossible because typhoons, floods and droughts from 1970 to 1990 resulted in a 82.4 percent loss in total Philippine rice production, she said.

“Filipinos are rice-loving citizens because that’s our staple food and we find it harder to resist eating rice than any other kind of food. Fastfood chains and restaurants even offer unlimited rice to their customers, while some of our citizens can live with almost any dish as long as they pair it with rice,” she pointed out.

“The sad fact, however, is that our rice production is greatly affected by the warming climate. If we want to continue enjoying eating rice with our dishes, we have to do something to address the risks brought by climate change and the threat of further rise in global temperature,” she added.

She said that the El Niño-related drought from 1990 to 2003 is estimated to have caused $370 million (P15.1 billion) in damages to agriculture.

“The unusual weather patterns we have been experiencing are bringing about a decrease in production of rice and several essential crops and with the absence of robust adaptation strategies, climate change will further imperil our food security,” she pointed out.

The lady senator said that the past two typhoons have already brought massive damages to agriculture.

Typhoon “Pablo’’ caused P26.5-billion worth of damages in agriculture, while current estimates on agricultural damage caused by Typhoon “Quinta’’ is at P146.8-million.

“We are faced with a lot of things to do for the agricultural sector alone. For areas affected by recent disasters, we need to fast-track the recovery of the agriculture sector to maintain our food supply and avert escalation of prices of basic commodities. We also need to adopt measures that would address the vulnerability of this sector to the impact of climate change,” she said.

Legarda said that 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.

“We must not wait for the World Bank prediction of a four degrees Celsius temperature to happen before we begin to act, because by that time, it will already be too late. We have to adapt to the changing climate and double our efforts in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as well as in urging other nations, especially the industrialized countries, to do the same,” she stressed.

“Policies on climate change adaptation are crucial to alleviate the impact of weather disturbances on the agriculture sector, not only to continue having rice in our tables, but more importantly to enhance food self-sufficiency and alleviate poverty,” she said.