Sunday, January 16, 2011

Brace for strong La Nina

By: Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star, Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Pangilinan are calling on concerned sectors to brace for the impact of La Niña this year, a phenomenon which they said could lead to significant loss of life and property.

Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, said all local government units (LGUs) should follow the lead of their counterparts that have joined the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in making their cities and municipalities more resilient to natural calamities.

She lauded the LGUs in Region VII, mostly from Cebu, for committing to the UN’s 10 Essential Actions to Reduce Disaster Risks, the latest group to join the program.

She said this would help in the efforts to prepare for the impacts of climate change in the country by making their respective cities and municipalities more prepared for natural disasters.

“This serves as a warning to us of what we should expect in the coming days and months. The UN campaign will help us become more prepared when disasters occur.”

She said the Metro Manila LGUs would also commit to the UN program in a ceremony to be held this February.

“We must prepare our people to adapt to a changing climate. We have to learn from the lessons of devastating disasters we have experienced year in, year out. We should start the year with a firm resolve of not tolerating any casualties or losses,” Legarda said.

Pangilinan, Senate committee on agriculture chairman, on the other hand said that the incessant rains experienced in Southern Leyte and Albay could result in a full blown agricultural crisis unless the officials of the national government and the LGUs start preparing for worst-case scenarios.

He said the country has just started feeling the effects of the La Niña phenomenon and that according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), more typhoons could be expected this year, particularly during the months of January to March.

“The country’s agricultural sector has already taken blows from the combined effects of the drought caused by El Niño and the series of typhoons that followed it last year. We experienced negative growth from January to September of 2010,” Pangilinan said.

He said the government should be able to use data from Pagasa, Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, and other concerned agencies to be able to come up with measures to address the disastrous effects of La Niña on the agricultural sector.

“Something must be done right away, and the earlier we come up with these measures, the more we can shield our countrymen from a looming disaster and threat to our food security,” Pangilinan said.

Citing data from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, he noted that the agricultural sector posted a growth rate of -2.62 percent from January to September 2010.

Rains, flooding hit agriculture sector

The amount of property damaged by the heavy monsoon rains in several provinces has exceeded P752 million, even as disaster managers brace for further evacuation in the light of possible flooding and landslides.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has pegged the amount of damage in agriculture, infrastructure, and private properties at P752.27 million as of 5 a.m. yesterday.

Of the amount, P593.34 million accounted for infrastructure damage, P158.9 million constituted agricultural damage and P31,300 for private properties.

In terms of infrastructure, the Caraga region was the most badly hit with damage amounting to P383.33 million followed by Eastern Visayas (P93.29 million) and Bicol (P68.9 million).

The Caraga region remains the worst hit in terms of infrastructure (P383.33 million) followed by Eastern Visayas (P93.19 million), and Bicol (P88.75 million).

The same regions were also the most affected in terms of crop damage.

Caraga suffered P104.52 million worth in terms of agricultural damage while Eastern Visayas and Bicol recorded P31.35 million and P17.4 million, respectively.

Damage to private properties was recorded in Cebu City in Central Visayas (P20,000) and Lanao del Norte in Northern Mindanao (P11,300).

The death toll from the heavy monsoon rains remained at 33 while the number of displaced persons was unchanged at 1,120,685.

The affected individuals are located in 21 provinces within MIMAROPA, Bicol, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Caraga, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

NDRRMC said a total of 40,618 families or 209,978 people have benefited from the resources and evacuation centers of the Social Welfare department and the local governments.

A total of 4,200 families or 17,584 people are still inside 71 evacuation centers as of yesterday morning.

NDRRMC said disaster managers in Camarines Sur are preparing for preemptive evacuation in anticipation of possible flooding and landslides in 26 municipalities.

These municipalities are Baao, Balatan, Buhi, Bula, Iriga City, Libmanan, Lupi, Minalabac, Pamplona, San Fernando, Sipocot, Sangay, Caramoan, Lagonoy, Garchitorena, Presentacion, Bato, Canaman, Milaor, Naga City Nabua, Pili, Ragay, San Fernando, Siruma and Tinambac.

“(There was) no fishing activity in Siruma and no land transportation since Wednesday due to heavy rains. Food packs were delivered in said municipality for distribution to affected families,” NDRRMC said.

The cost of assistance from the combined resources of state agencies, local governments, and non-government organizations has risen to P12.48 million.

The Navy, on the other hand, said it has completed its first sortie of relief operations to displaced families of Cagraray Island in Bacacay, Albay.

Navy spokesman Capt. Giovanni Bacordo said 470 families benefited from the “Food for Work” program implemented by the Albay provincial government.

The relief goods were distributed by sailors from the Naval Forces Southern Luzon who were on board BRP Simeon Castro.

“The Philippine Navy command in Bicol committed two gunboats for the relief operation of island communities,” Bacordo said

Disaster resiliency pushed Militants want delay on farmland rentals

Meanwhile, four of the biggest rural-based groups --the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the peasant women federation Amihan and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura --yesterday urged President Aquino to impose a moratorium on payment of land rent on farms damaged by heavy rains and flooding in 21 provinces and five other regions all over the country.

KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos urged Aquino to issue an executive order compelling landlords to refrain from collecting land rent in disaster ravaged areas affected by continuous massive flooding and landslides since December 2010 in at least 1,073 farming villages in eight regions, especially from Caraga, Eastern Visayas and the Bicol regions.

The KMP said landlords extraction of land rent from poor farmers usually ranges from 50 to 70 percent of the farmers produce, which it described as extremely exploitative.

“Aside from quick and substantial economic relief and assistance, we strongly compel the Aquino administration to impose moratorium on payment of land rent of farms in devastated farming communities,” Ramos said.

Aside from land rent moratorium, he said the government should also postpone payment of debts to landlords, traders and government financial groups like Quedancor and cancellation of interests to those with damaged crops.

Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap, for his part, demanded that the Aquino government and the Department of Agriculture provide financial compensation of P10,000 to P15,000 per hectare to farmers whose crops were damaged and order the Land Bank of the Philippines to implement zero-interest credit line amounting to P10,000 to P15,000 per hectare to farmers.

He said the same compensation package should be given to fisherfolk in affected regions. The KMP said the acquisition of motorized water-pumps, pipes and tubes, tractors, hand tractors, farm tools and carabaos for the use of affected farmers, and fuel subsidy for their operation were also necessary to help farmers in calamity stricken areas. Helen Flores, Rhodina Villanueva, Alexis Romero, Miriam Desecada

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