SENATOR Francis Pangilinan, the former presidential assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, has urged President Benigno Aquino III to declare a state of calamity particularly in the El Niño-affected areas in Northern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

“We are asking Malacañang to consider putting the hardest hit dry spell areas in Northern Mindanao and Armm regions under the state of calamity. Department of Agriculture (DA) figures show that the total loss for agriculture is already P823 million in Mindanao alone. Almost 40,000 farmers are now without a viable source of income,” he said.

“Immediate calamity assistance from the National Government should be made available. Price ceiling would help alleviate the impact of El Niño to our farmers,” Pangilinan added.

He said the El Niño situation already calls for a national declaration. “Both the national and local calamity funds can then be utilized.”

Once elected to a Senate seat, Pangilinan promised he would prioritize the Agricultural and Fisheries Calamity Fund of 2016. The senator is seeking his third term in the Senate.

He also listened with the Cagayan de Oro youth during the Awareness “Talks: Let’s Talk About It” at Kiosko Kagawasan in Divisoria last March 4.

The forum was organized by the Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines and tackled issues such as women’s rights and their involvement in the labor force, as well as city opportunities for the hinterland youth.

Participants for the forum included youths from several barangays in the city, as well as student leaders of some of the city’s colleges and universities.

Pangilinan gamely sat in the midst of the participants at the steps of Kiosko and had an informal dialog with them. He discussed the importance of elevating the status quo of farmers as one of the ways to achieve a better economy for the country.

He said that if the farmers’ income increases, hinterland youths will not have the need to go to big cities to look for work.