President Fidel Ramos has promised support to farmers during a severe drought in Philip-pines due to the El Nio weather phenomenon. "The government will continue to give a helping hand to our farmers until they have become the new breed of farmers whose organisations are strong, who use environment-friendly and sus-tainable farming practises, and who keep themselves updated with emerging technologies," he adds.
Red Cross estimates show that El Nio has caused severe droughts in central and southern Philippines, affecting at least 3.6 million people. Moreover, forest fires believed to have been sparked by slash-and-burn farmers, have aggravated the situation.
At present, the government has only provided a limited help to these farmers and distributed rice to nearly 2,65,000 people. The Ramos administration has often been accused of having neglected the development and growth of the agricul-tural sector.