A top businessman on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao yesterday made a stinging attack on government inaction over the El Nino drought, warning that urgent efforts were needed to save lives. The call for rice supplies from Joven Chua, chamber of commerce chief in General Santos, came as light tanks were seen patrolling near grain silos on the edge of a city now shut down for Easter celebrations. 'Manila has done something this week but it is nowhere near enough,' Mr Chua said. 'We will need much more rice, and fast. And they will have to keep it coming for several months. 'All they seem to worry about in Manila is the election. They must not be allowed to continue to play down and underestimate the severity of this drought - lives are at stake.' Mr Chua said he was shocked to see television broadcasts from top Agricultural Ministry chiefs suggesting the drought was being overplayed. 'These guys up there in their air-conditioned offices should come down here and take a look for themselves,' he said. 'This was a thriving place that was driving much of the country. It must be allowed to thrive again.' Mr Chua warned that even after June's rainy season, it would be September before new crops could be harvested. No rain has fallen since Christmas Eve, the March crops have failed, livestock is dying and even the once-plentiful tuna have disappeared from the coast. Michael O'Brien, managing director of Dole Philippines' plantation near General Santos, said both pineapple and asparagus yields were down on its 11,000 hectare site. 'We have seen this before back in 1982 and 1983 but it was not as quite as bad as it is now. It does really seem to be knocking people about,' Mr O'Brien said. Dole had no plans to lay off any of its 4,000 workers.