Pact to shield agri sector from natural disasters inked

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna -- A joint agreement calling for reinvigorated efforts to effectively shield the agriculture sector from the devastation caused by natural calamities in the Southeast Asia region, was signed here Friday by key officials from the national and local government, international financial institutions, and private organizations

Delegates to the two-day "Forum on Reducing Disaster Risks towards a Resilient Agricultural Sector" at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) headquarters here have committed to safeguarding the agriculture sector because it is one of the basic components in the provision of stable food supply across the world. 

They agreed that the agriculture sector must be supported by financial requirement, formulations of plans, programs and policies to the provision of major infrastructure projects like irrigation systems.

Among signatories were representatives of the United Nations (UN)-Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Land Bank of the Philippines, Abra de Ilog town, and the University of the Philippines and the Visayas State University.

Contained in a one-page covenant, the signatories pointed out that: "every rural and agricultural community at significant climate risk should develop, adopt and enforce an appropriate adaptation and mitigation plan, consisting of both immediate actions and comprehensive long-range strategies for reducing the impact of a disaster."

Dubbed as Disaster Risks Reduction Management Program, the covenant said it will capitalize on opportunities for sustainable growth and development until the next century.

Agriculture, the delegates noted, has been vulnerable to the devastation caused by natural calamities resulting in scarcity of its supplies specifically rice, poultry, and animal products as well as vegetables, which contribute to the rise in the cost of prime agricultural products.

"We will support the implementation of the program, such that cost-effective measures will be recognized and profiled, policies and regulations will be tailored, and transferable solutions will be promoted to address economic, social, and political barriers towards resilient agricultural and rural communities," delegates pledged.

As defined in its official statement, three out of four Filipinos live in rural areas and most of them are dependent on agriculture and frequently encounter devastating effects of natural calamities such as typhoons, extreme drought, and the so-called La Nina as a result of abnormal changing in hydro-climatic conditions.

The Philippines is one of the 11 nations that comprise the Southeast Asian region including Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Timor-Leste.

During the forum, the delegates pushed for the active involvement of the local government unit specifically at the barangay level, which is mandated to act promptly to ensure the safety of their constituents.

The call for the women's empowerment was also stressed pointing out that in time of crisis, women are found to be effective partners in safeguarding their respective families and in helping out distribute relief assistance.

Earlier, Mayor Eric A. Constantino of Abra de Ilog expressed optimism that the forum would be beneficial to municipalities frequently hit by natural calamities.

"Our efforts in securing our farmers and farmlands would definitely benefit from the outcome of the session," Constantino said.

The two-day meet was hosted by SEARCA, in cooperation with the Embassy of France in Manila.