The House Independent Bloc on Monday called on Congress to convene a bicameral meeting of its leadership and relevant committee chairmen in both chambers to address the looming crisis brought about by the worst El Niño in five decades.
Bloc leader Rep. Martin Romualdez of Leyte also urged the Agriculture department to immediately submit to Congress a genuine inventory of farmlands to be affected, the degree of inability to plant rice, corn and other crops due to the El Niño, and then, for the leadership of Congress and the relevant committees to re-direct, re-allocate funding in the 2016 proposed budget to help the farmers.
“We worry about the lack of water supply for the metropolis, but are we doing anything to mitigate the loss of income and livelihood for our poor farmers? No. The Department of Agriculture and other relevant agencies are just mouthing the usual platitudes, about their being on top of the situation”, Romualdez charged.
“This is a crisis of hunger staring our farmers in the face, yet we seem to be taking the usual reactive, don’t care attitude”, Romualdez said.
“Matinding gutom ang hinaharap ng mga magsasaka natin. Maawa naman tayo sa kanila. Hindi pwedeng ang inaasikaso lang natin ay umangkat ng bigas para sa mga taga-lungsod,” said Romualdez.
The Leyte solon proposed that Malacañang authorize the granting of an El Niño Emergency Subsidy of P5,000 per farmer family per month during the months they will be unable to plant and harvest anything due to the drought. This is similar to the manner by which the Conditional Cash Transfer budget has been increased for the last five years of the Aquino administration.
“The treasury is wallowing in funds, and the problem of the economy is precisely underspending. So now that there is a crisis of hunger facing our farmers, let us at the very least, stave off their hunger and deprivation,” Romualdez explained.
He again reiterated his appeal to Congress to pass his authored House Bill 3486 which seeks to create Department of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management or DDPEM whose sole duty is to help victims of disasters and calamities.
Romualdez filed HB 3486 in December 2013 barely a month after the devastation of Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ in the country. He has called on House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Senate President Franklin M. Drilon to prioritize the bill, which also aims to drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the bureaucratic red tape in the release of disaster-related funds.
“Climate change has already changed the weather patterns that impact on our daily lives. Calamities will be commonplace, and more intense. We need an agency that will institute pro-active, and not just re-active programs and responses to the realities of climate change and intensifying calamities,” said Romualdez, whose district was the hardest hit by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon in world history that claimed some 7,000 lives and devastated not only Tacloban City but so many provinces and towns in the Visayas.
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