SEN. Cynthia A. Villar underscored on Wednesday the importance of strengthening agriculture-insurance programs as an important risk-management strategy to cope with the impacts of climate change, most especially in the Philippines.
Appearing before a forum called “Policy Roundtable on Improving the Agricultural Insurance Program to Enhance Resilience to Climate Change in Southeast Asia” being held at the Ascott Hotel in Makati City, the senator said improving the agricultural-insurance program is key to enhancing climate-change resilience.
The two-day policy roundtable forum is spearheaded by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) along with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC).
The policy roundtable seeks to pinpoint key issues and challenges related to agricultural insurance in Southeast Asia in the face of climate change, and identify policy directions and recommendations that will improve agricultural-insurance programs.
In her keynote speech, Villar said the issue to be tackled is both very relevant and crucial to the Philippines.
“The Philippines is an agricultural country with about two-thirds of its population being directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. Our country is also an archipelago, and as such, is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change,” she said.
She said that problems due to climate change are realities that Filipinos have been facing, particularly in recent years when extreme weather conditions, such as super typhoons, massive flooding, El Niño and La Niña phenomena, among others, have been causing death and destruction in the country.
A recent United Nations report identified the Philippines as the third-most-at-risk from climate change in the world, ranked behind the South Pacific island nations of Vanuatu and Tonga.
In another report, released by environmental organization German Watch—the Global Climate Risk Index 2015, which lists countries most affected by weather-related disasters, like storms, floods and heat waves based on events of 2013—the Philippines was ranked as No. 1, followed by Cambodia and India.
“As an agricultural country, the Philippines posts tremendous losses from the onslaught of environmental disasters. According to the PCIC, during the period between 1982 and 2012, crop losses brought about by typhoons, floods, droughts, plant diseases and pests reached P7 billion for corn farmers alone,” Villar noted.
She said that damage to agriculture caused by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), which hit the country in November 2013, reached over P90 billion (about $2 billion).
The super typhoon damaged about 600,000 hectares of agricultural lands, with an estimated 1.1 million metric tons of crops lost.