Have faith, Philippine bishops tell drought-stricken farmers

Church prepares prayer of deliverance from nature's wrath
Have faith, Philippine bishops tell drought-stricken farmers

A farmer in the southern Philippine province of Cotabato inspects corn plants that are affected by the dry spell. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

"There will be rain," Filipino bishops assured farmers who have been suffering from an ongoing dry spell that has affected thousands of farmlands across the country.

"Have faith in the power of prayer," said Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the bishops' conference. 

The prelate said the church is already preparing an oratio imperata, or obligatory prayer, that will be recited in all churches.

Philippine Catholic bishops usually issue a "prayer for deliverance from calamities" when the country faces an impending natural or man-made disaster. 

"By issuing it, we recognize that man's capacity may not be enough to avert such problems, hence we invoke the one whose power far surpasses that of man," said Father Jerome Secillano of the bishops' public affairs office. 

He said that while one cannot control the wrath of nature "we believe that God has power over all creation." 

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration reported that rainfall in 23 of the 27 provinces in the southern region of Mindanao over the past few months have been way below the normal amount they usually get. 

At least 12 other provinces in the central and northern part of the country are also suffering from the dry spell. 

On April 11, the World Bank warned that the effect of El Nino on Philippine economic growth could be significant if food imports are inadequate. 

"While the peak of El Nino has passed, the country is still expected to feel its effects through the second quarter of 2016 and the indirect impact on prices and consumption growth can be high if food supply is not managed well," read a report by the Washington-based multilateral lender. 

The World Bank warned that high food prices could lead to an uptick in poverty as the poor are susceptible to food price shocks. 

The International Rice Research Institute reported that the current El Nino phenomenon has already resulted in lower harvests and irregular planting across several rice-producing countries.  

"Combined with lower stocks in a few key countries, emerging patterns in regional and global grain supply threaten the repeat of the painful rice price crisis in 2007-2008," the organization said in a statement on April 6. 

That 2007-2008 crisis led to formulation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Integrated Food Security Framework and strategic plan of action. 

The institute, however, said that beyond the framework and plan "much more needs to be done, and regional cooperation will be essential to manage a food crisis."

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"This cooperation, for maximum impact, would have to involve not only the ASEAN member countries but also China, Japan, and South Korea, and India, among which are the world’s biggest producers and consumers of rice," the institute said.

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