Government negligence created the El Niño crisis, say environmental and human rights advocates

April 15, 2016


Quezon City, Philippines – The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC-Phils) and AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) together with the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM) organized a Science for the People Colloquium entitled “Understanding the Science of El Niño and its Impact on Food Crisis” held yesterday at the University of the Philippines-Diliman IESM AVR.

The colloquium aims to discuss the science behind the drought crisis that caused the violent dispersal of the 6,000-strong barricade of farmers demanding for food relief in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato last April 01, 2016. The dispersal conducted by the local Philippine National Police (PNP) led to the demise of 2 people, more than 100 injured and 70 illegally detained.

“Droughts, typhoons, and flooding induced by El Niño could lead to crop yield reduction and total yield loss,” explained by Mr. Marco D. Macapagal of the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology. His presentation discussed the science of El Niño and how it affects the Philippines as an agriculture-dependent country.

Engr. Remedios L. Cervo from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) then discussed the monitoring and prediction mechanisms of PAGASA and presented the forecasted weather events as drought conditions worsen. Engr. Cervo also discussed the monitoring efforts of PAGASA on the current El Niño. “As early as 2014, we have already started monitoring and issuing warnings and advisories that the current El Niño cycle will worsen,” explained Engr. Cervo.

Farmers from North Cotabato also spoke in the colloquium, “We joined the protest in Kidapawan City to demand for food relief because we really do not have anything to harvest and eat in our farms,” said Mercedita, a farmer from North Cotabato.

Jerome Succor Aba from Suara Bangsamoro, one of the organizations that supported the barricade of the farmers in Kidapawan also took account and explained the rational and reasonable demands of the farmers experiencing extreme hunger due to El Niño. “Our farmers are already eating rats and even boils rocks just to survive,” told Aba.

A representative from the Citizen’s Disaster Response Center (CDRC) also reiterated the need to respond to the current crisis. “Those most affected by the drought are also those most vulnerable, let’s utilize existing resources to respond to this disaster,” Ms. Cora Jasmines explained.

The colloquium concluded that the national government lacked the preparation to the current El Niño. As noted by scientists, the El Niño event is predictable and impacts can be mitigated. The negligence of the Philippine government to respond to such event has made this a crisis. “Our country already experiences crisis in food and agriculture even before this El Niño, the government’s negligence and lack of support to the most vulnerable—the small farmers, is making this a crisis,” explained Engr. Efraim Iglesia, resident agricultural engineer of the CEC-Phils.

Ms. Feny Cosico, Secretary General of AGHAM also challenged fellow scientists, “The challenge for us scientists and advocates is to raise awareness among our groups and communities and support our farmers in their struggle for land and life.” ###

Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines

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