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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Administration senatorial bet Francis Tolentino has urged the government to allow an early declaration of state of national calamity as El Niño continues to loom over several parts of the country.

Tolentino’s statement came after a growing number of provinces pleaded for the national government help to address the harsh impact of the severe dry spell.

The former Tagaytay City mayor warned that the long drought would surely take its toll on agriculture and fisheries that could threaten food security.

“Nothing is more alarming than decreasing food and water supply and increasing risks to public health,” he said.

Tolentino, former chief troubleshooter of President Duterte, earlier warned that the long dry season may cause another inflation spike due to its impact on local supply of food, water and other products.

He noted that last year’s record-high inflation was brought by supply shortage especially when it comes to local supply of rice. He said the El Niño will surely affect the country’s water supply the basic ingredient of all agricultural products.

Tolentino explained that the declaration of a state of national calamity will surely fast track the delivery of vital aid and services to drought-stricken areas in the country. He also stressed that government response should be swift as the people’s welfare is at critical stake.

The former chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) expounded that an early declaration of a state of national calamity “will ensure that immediate and appropriate response can be extended, especially to farmers and fisher folks.”

Weather bureau PAG-ASA said the extended dry spell is expected to endure until June of this year, which is usually the onset of the rainy season in the Philippines.

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