Climate change and food shortage

Climate change and food shortage

Nov 6, 2023, 5:05 AM
Diego S. Cagahastian

Diego S. Cagahastian


President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has appointed Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as secretary of agriculture, a position that the President himself assumed in concurrent capacity for over a year. It is fair to say that Bongbong Marcos was not very successful in this post, what with the series of agricultural scandals that occurred during his first year in office, particularly about sugar, rice, onion and garlic.

Secretary Laurel has plenty of unfinished tasks left by his predecessor—problems that are man-made while others are natural, such as global warming and climate change that hinder the country’s food production.

While systemic and man-made challenges at the Department of Agriculture will need chapters upon chapters of discussion, View from Calumpang will limit the narrative first to what nature has to offer.

Record-high temperatures are being notched all over the globe and the Philippines is no exception. On July 3 this year, the globe notched its hottest day on record, exceeding an average of 62.6 Fahrenheit for the first time, according to US meteorologists.

To further exacerbate the situation, the El Niño weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean is now underway, as confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization. The effects of this weather phenomenon such as drought, water shortage and inclement weather will most likely be felt for the rest of the year and until 2024. This will translate to low agricultural productivity, failed crops, storms and typhoons, etc.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been in the forefront of monitoring the impact of climate change and El Niño in the Asian region, and results of its studies are dire. The ADB said while the effects of El Niño are global and widespread, this weather phenomenon hits Asian countries the hardest. Drought becomes a more common occurrence, leading to energy, food, and water insecurity, it said.

Without a government department to handle water resources conservation and management, Marcos Jr. has created the Water Resources Management Office (WRMO) which is attached to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to lead all government agencies involved in water management and use in coping with the nascent water crisis.

This agency asked all barangay officials and residential managers in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to advise their residents to conserve water as the country struggles to mitigate this year’s El Niño.

The WRMO issued a bulletin instructing village officials as well as condominium and subdivision managers to advise their residents to save water by limiting its use, such as in watering their decorative plants and washing their vehicles. Every opportunity to recycle water such as that used for laundry and dishwashing should be taken, the agency said.

All government agencies have been directed to strictly implement water conservation measures. How the WRMO will monitor and handle compliance with its directive will tell us if it really has teeth. Its other issuance, an order to all local government units in the National Capital Region to fast track the approval of pipe repairs of water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water is easy to comply with, and the mayors will just be too willing to cooperate.

The WRMO’s other plans such as the conduct of spot inspections of office buildings for unwarranted use of water, leaks, and faulty bathroom fixtures is expected to produce good results. It will also help the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System in reviewing the monthly water bills of all government agencies and issue notices on excessive use of water.

A request to the public to report water leaks in streets and public places is another WRMO initiative that should merit everybody’s support.

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