MANILA - Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III advised the national government on Saturday to consider declaring a state of calamity nationwide or over more provinces due to the El Niño crisis.
Pimentel said the recent rally of drought-hit farmers and militants which led to a violent dispersal in Kidapawan, Cotabato should serve as a reference on the worsening food production and widespread hunger in areas gripped by the weather pattern.
"I-anticipate na po natin, mayroon nang pumutok na social volcano sa North Cotabato dahil sa kagutuman... El Niño po ang naging dahilan doon sa kagutuman ng mga magsasaka dahil hindi na nga productive ang lupa. Ang tanong, diyan lang ba ang epekto ng El Niño sa North Cotabato? Siyempre hindi, this is nationwide," the senator told radio dzMM.
"Therefore, gumising na po ang national government. Pag-aralan mabuti kung kailangan ng declaration ng state of calamity in number of provinces or even nationwide."
He added that a nationwide state of calamity would permit the release of calamity funds estimated at P45 billion.
The Senate on Thursday launched its investigation on the April 1 dispersal that left two farmers dead from the 2,000-strong group asking for the immediate release of rice subsidy.
WATCH: Senators blame nat'l gov't for Kidapawan protest
The hearing, which is in aid of legislation, is looking at whether the police used excessive force during the mass action and will discuss a framework on the right to adequate food.
Pimentel said the probe will also examine whether the Government Procurement Act could have contributed to the plight of farmers.
Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza and the Regional Agriculture Office have said that the law limited the maximum sacks of rice they could have purchased for the province's starving farmers.
Pimentel, however, noted that the National Food Authority (NFA) said that the Cotabato government could have written to them, asking to lift the ceiling for rice purchase since the province has been under a state of calamity as early as January.
The El Niño started affecting the country last December.
As of March this year, six provinces and 12 cities have declared a state of calamity due to El Niño while loss in agricultural production has soared to P5.53 billion.
State weather bureau PAGASA warned that more provinces may experience drought and dry spell this April.