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THE country is beginning to have thunderstorms bringing sudden rains to various parts of the country. These are not yet the steady rains of the wet season; those are no due until near the end of May. But the scattered afternoon rains are serving to ease the summer heat we have been enduring for many weeks now.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said that the nation must expect more of the summer heat this week. It foresees the maximum temperature in Tuguegarao City to reach as high as 41.5 degrees Celsius and warned the people against heat cramps and heat exhaustion, with continuing activity possibly resulting in heat stroke.
This year’s hot season has been intensified by the El Niño phenomenon, the heating of the equatorial Pacific, causing below-normal rainfall in many parts of the world including the Philippines, especially in Mindanao. The drought has parched rice fields all over the country, damaging crops, notably corn and rice.
This week, reports from India, Thailand, and Vietnam, the world’s top producers of rice, said they have all reduced their production. These three countries normally produce 60 percent of the global rice trade of 43 million tons.
Because of the drought, rice inventories in these three countries are expected to fall by one-third. We hope that the rice shipments the Philippines has already ordered from Thailand will be sufficient for our needs as the global supply is down.
This possible rice problem is one reason we pray that the rains will soon come, so that we can mobilize our own agricultural sector to produce at least a part of what we cannot import this year. If the ongoing drought moves our government to boost agriculture in a big way, so much the better. The incoming administration should make increased agricultural production a major part of its plans for the country.
When the rains do come towards the end of this month, they will bring another problem – floods. Our town and city governments, especially in Metro Manila, must not be lulled by the current hot season into neglecting the annual cleanup of flood channels. For the showers of blessing that will come will soon become powerful typhoons like Yolanda. For all of these forces of nature, we must be prepared.