As El Niño worsens, solon urges gov’t to set long-term policies vs climate change

By Cielito M. Reganit

MANILA, Nov. 23 (PNA) — Amid the worsening effects of the El Niño phenomenon that is expected to intensify even further and last till mid-2016, the chair of the House Committee on Climate Change on Monday urged the national government to promulgate long-term policies that would help vulnerable local government units (LGUs) mitigate the effects of climate change.

Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe said he is also hoping that national government agencies will fast-track spending and immediately implement adaptation programs already funded by Congress to help vulnerable sectors cope with the strong El Niño prevailing in the country.

The Bicolano lawmaker made the call amid continuous El Niño warnings by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the current dry spell would likely surpass the strength of the El Niño episode that lasted from 1997 to 1998.

It is expected to intensify before the year ends, which may even last until the second quarter of 2016.

PAGASA’s Climate Monitoring Section has also warned that the prevailing dry spell could be among the four strongest episodes of El Niño since 1950.

“Climate change is now a new normal that we have to face. The government should take serious climate actions and come up with policies that would not just help climate-vulnerable LGUS during the current dry spell but also in the long-term,” Batocabe said.

In the latest advisory released by PAGASA, the provinces of Quezon, Camarines Norte, and Sarangani will likely experience drought while nine other provinces — Laguna, Mindoro Occidental and Oriental, Romblon, Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Biliran, and North Cotabato — may experience dry spell

FAO also warned that up to 47,111 affected farmers may need support for their farming activities in the next cropping season due to El Niño.

In the meantime, the party-list lawmaker said that his committee will be eagerly awaiting the results of a policy forum that will be held on Nov. 27 at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City.

Entitled “El Niño and Climate Financing in the Philippines,” the forum will tackle what the national climate finance policy is, whether climate-vulnerable LGUs can directly access climate funds and if there are policy barriers to directly accessing such national funds.

It is sponsored by the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG).

“We are glad that UP has decided to organize this forum for government, academe and civil society to discuss this important issue. We eagerly await the results and would welcome recommendations on how Congress can better perform its legislative and oversight functions to ensure our policies and programs are responsive to El Niño and other climate impacts threatening our food security,” Batocabe said. (PNA)