As the agricultural sector grapples with the challenges of the El Niño climate phenomenon, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go emphasizes the urgency of preparing and implementing immediate and long-term strategies to mitigate its detrimental effects.

Recognizing the critical role of the agriculture sector in the nation’s food security, Go called upon the Department of Agriculture (DA) led by Secretary Francisco Laurel Jr. to take proactive measures, especially in supporting small-scale farmers who are among the hardest hit by climatic irregularities.

“Ako po ay nananawagan sa ating Secretary Kiko Laurel ng Department of Agriculture na ilatag agad ang long term solutions at immediate solutions dito. Dapat po ay ‘wag pabayaan ang mga magsasaka,” said Go in an ambush interview after personally aiding displaced workers in Quezon, Nueva Ecija on Thursday, February 1.

He stressed the importance of keeping the farmers, the backbone of the nation’s food supply, in a stable and productive state.

“Alam n’yo, dapat ang farmers natin parating busog… at dapat po ang mga produkto nila ay masaya nilang nabebenta na kumikita sila,” Go remarked, highlighting the direct link between the farmers’ well-being and the nation’s food security.

Being a member of the Senate Agriculture committee, Go also pointed out the precarious situation of the farmers who live a hand-to-mouth existence, advocating for substantial government support and intervention to uplift their situations.

“Sila po ang mga isang kahig isang tuka, dapat suportahan ng gobyerno. Kung maaari nga lang ay bigyan sila ng subsidy. Tulungan, bigyan sila ng ayuda, fertilizers, at iba pang kagamitan,” he added.

Acknowledging the allocated funds within the DA, Go urged for these resources to be prioritized and allocated efficiently in anticipation of the adverse impacts of El Niño.

Being an adopted son of Nueva Ecija, Go specifically noted the significance of the province, the rice granary of the Philippines, stating, “May pondo naman po ang ating Department Agriculture, unahin nyo agad in anticipation po sa magiging damage ng El Nino.”

“Dahil alam naman natin, ang Nueva Ecija, dito po nanggagaling ang bigas, yung production po ng bigas. Malaki po ang kontribusyon ng Nueva Ecija lalong lalo na ang farmers natin,” he added.

The urgency of Go’s appeal is underscored by recent reports from the DA, revealing that the El Niño phenomenon has already inflicted substantial losses in Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula, with farmers bearing the brunt of the blow.

Adding to the concerns, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration forecasts that Northern Mindanao, a critical agricultural region, will start experiencing the harshest impacts of El Niño in the forthcoming months.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Irrigation Administration is projecting that 20% of the rice farms will be affected by the drought, and is implementing measures to mitigate the loss of production.

Go’s commitment to supporting farmers and fisherfolk in the country extends to advocating for various programs and initiatives to promote the agricultural industry, giving priority in uplifting the lives and livelihoods of small local agricultural workers given their crucial role in attaining food security.

Go was one of the authors of Republic Act 11901, or the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Rural Development Financing Enhancement Act of 2022, which enhanced the financial structure supporting agriculture, fisheries, and rural development. This law is designed to offer improved access to credit for rural communities, particularly benefiting farmers, fisherfolk, and agri-based workers. The goal is to elevate their well-being, competitiveness, and productivity.

Moreover, Go was a co-sponsor and co-author in the Senate of RA 11953, also known as the New Agrarian Emancipation Act. This legislation condones loans accrued by agrarian reform beneficiaries, encompassing the related interests, penalties, and surcharges.

Additionally, the senator filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2117, a measure to ensure thorough crop insurance protection for agrarian reform beneficiaries. To complement the bill, Go introduced SBN 2118 to improve insurance coverage and services for farmers and address the agricultural sector’s susceptibility to the consequences of natural disasters if enacted into laws.

Earlier, Go also emphasized the importance of improving competitiveness and safeguarding local farmers and industries amid the recently ratified Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. Go believes that with open competition as a result of RCEP, the prices of goods would decrease, and ordinary Filipinos, especially the poor and those in the agricultural sector, must benefit from it.