PHL eyes Php19.2-B spending for El Niño mitigation programs

By Leslie D. Venzon

MANILA, Oct. 13 (PNA) — The Philippine government plans to spend Php19.2 billion in the next three quarters on projects and programs meant to ease the impact of a stronger El Niño weather phenomenon.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told reporters that the inter-agency El Niño Task Force would seek approval from President Benigno S. Aquino III of the proposed budget probably within this week.

He said implementing agencies would need about Php7.5 billion this quarter, while the remaining Php 11.7 billion for the first half of 2016.

Citing the weather bureau, Balisacan said El Niño would peak starting December until February and its impact is expected to last until June next year.

“These are still very, very tentative; these are indicative amounts that would be discussed with the agencies… They will be further validated, have gone through initial screening already but as we go through the implementation, they will undergo further venting and validation,” he said.

Balisacan, also the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general, identified some of the planned projects aimed to cushion the impact of El Niño, including those relating to water demand and supply management.

“We have water management (project) for farm production through DA (Department of Agriculture), NIA (National Irrigation Administration) and DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). They would need Php1.75 billion in the next quarter; they would need Php2 billion in the next two quarters of 2016,” he said.

The NEDA chief added the task force was also working on the possibility of mobilizing cash-for-work program which would provide additional sources of income for households and farmers who got less or no income because of El Niño.

Balisacan said the task force also planned to introduce food stamp program intended for areas that might be affected by the drought.

“If there are vulnerable groups and consumers and households who are not producers, and who may not be in a position to work (because) of circumstances or locations, food stamp might be the appropriate intervention instrument for them,” he said.

The task force is looking to spend Php3.2 billion on the food stamp intervention which will be implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), he added.

Further, Balisacan said a Php10.2-billion spending for the next three quarters had been planned for identified projects by the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, NIA, DSWD and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

He said 66 provinces were expected to suffer severe drought until the second quarter of 2016.

There are currently seven provinces already in the drought condition, including Quirino, Aurora, Quezon, Bohol, Siquijor, Camiguin and Misamis Oriental. (PNA)