Marcos: Philippines could face drought conditions, food shortages in 2024

BenarNews staff
Marcos: Philippines could face drought conditions, food shortages in 2024 Workers at the International Rice Research Institute plant varieties for testing at its farm facility in Los Baños town, south of Manila, July 19, 2023.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday sought to allay fears about a food shortage in the Philippines that could be brought on by a potentially moderate to severe drought expected as a result of the El Niño weather phenomenon.  

The Philippine leader made the remarks while inaugurating a water treatment plant south of Metro Manila. Marcos said the government had already “accelerated efforts” to prepare for El Niño, which is expected to peak in the first three months of next year. 

“We have a good buffer until the end of the first quarter,” Marcos said. “What we need to do is to prepare further capacity so that should El Niño extend to the second quarter of next year, we are still able to supply water to urban areas, agriculture and industries.”

The president visited the water treatment plant days after the state weather bureau forecast that 65 of the country’s 82 provinces – over three-quarters of the nation – could face drought conditions by May 2024 that could impact harvests. 

The supply chain for agricultural products “will be affected if water resources are inadequate,” Marcos warned on Friday. 

By ensuring a stable supply, he said, water could flow to agriculture and industrial sectors, as well as to medical facilities.

“We think about those major uses of water. We also have to be thinking about our hospitals. Hospitals cannot operate without water and with the onset of a drought, that would become more, more important as it goes on,” Marcos said. 

The president issued his assurance after the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) revealed that most of the country’s provinces were expected to suffer drought in the coming months because of El Niño. 

In July, the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization issued a warning about soaring temperatures while it reported that the El Niño weather phenomenon had emerged in the tropical Pacific for the first time in seven years.

At the same time, the Philippines’ state weather bureau declared the onset of El Niño and warned Filipinos that its effects could be felt toward the end of the year. 

Scientists have said that the drought could affect about 89,000 square miles (230,508.9 square km) of rice farms in South and Southeast Asia, which typically rely on rain because they lack irrigation systems.

Based on recent conditions, moderate to severe drought conditions are likely from February to May 2024. And by the end of May, 77 percent of the provinces of the country will have potential for drought – that would be around 65 provinces,” Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum told reporters on Tuesday. 

“We need to further intensify our efforts to make sure that we are ready for this especially in the various fields that were already mentioned like health, water, agriculture, sanitation and of course, peace and order; and we also need to involve everyone in this effort,” he said. 

El Niño, which means “the boy” in Spanish, occurs every few years. It produces scorching weather in Asia and East Africa, but causes flooding in South America and usually lasts about a year. 

In 1998, an El Niño delivered droughts that wiped almost U.S. $5 billion from Philippine farm production, causing a 6.4% contraction in agriculture, and a spike in food prices in a country where food is the most heavily weighted component of the consumer price index, according to media reports.

“The effects of El Niño are already felt and have been experienced in some areas in the country, and this is characterized by the reduction of rainfall up to 80%, which led to dry conditions or dry spells,” Solidum said. 

Jeoffrey Maitem in Davao City, Philippines, contributed to this report.


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