By Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio, Reporter
THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Friday cited El Niño’s minimal impact on the economy, as it noted the agriculture sector’s relative contribution to economic growth.
“Agri sector, overall, it might not be that substantial…about 8% to 9% of GDP contributed,” Carlos Bernardo O. Abad Santos, NEDA Assistant Secretary for Planning and Policy, said in a press briefing on Friday.
“Initial estimates is -0.2 percentage points but also we want to emphasize we had very low agriculture growth last year. Less thunderstorms during El Niño…there may be benefits later on due to less thunderstorms,” Mr. Abad Santos said.
NEDA Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, on the other hand, said his agency has yet to come out with better estimates on El Niño’s impact on GDP, adding that “the impact would be proportionate to the percentage contribution.”
“Maybe if there is some impact on inflation, it will still be below 4%,” he said.
He added: “Timing of imports will be right on the dot especially private importers are quite adept responding to perceptible shortages. They are better at estimating when it is profitable importing, when it is not.”
The NEDA chief said the Philippines has experienced worse El Niño in 2014 until 2016. “The lessons we had back then will be used to try to attenuate the wide-ranging impacts of this phenomenon. PAGASA’s early warning system and the government’s multi-sectoral approach are important since we all know that El Niño is a concern not only of the agriculture sector. The creation of the El Niño Task Force made government efforts more coordinated.”
For his part, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said his agency is not threatened by the possible effect of El Niño, with measures in place such as cloud seeding and provision of seeds to affected farmers, construction of small scale irrigation systems, loans, and provision of insurance.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) reported P1.33 billion in damage, affecting rice and corn plantations, as of March 19. On the other hand, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), on Wednesday reported P2.67 billion in damage, which DA has yet to confirm. Nevertheless, DA estimates more than 20 million metric tons (MT) in rice production this year.