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PIA Press Release

Aklan prepares for El Niņo

by Venus G. Villanueva

Kalibo, Aklan (2 February) -- Despite the information that Aklan will only be moderately affected by El Niņo, the province is preparing several measures to counter its effects on agricultural crops as well as on fishery products here.

According to William Castillo, OIC of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA), the Department of Agriculture has contacted the province to inquire about El Niņo vulnerable areas for possible implementation of technologies adaptable to the hot climate.

Castillo said measures also include selection of plant varieties not needing much water.

Castillo said while other provinces in Western Visayas already suffer from El Niņo ill-effects, rains continue to occur in Aklan. He also said that the months of March and April, the perceived height of the phenomenon, is a fallow period for ricefields, so there won't be much farming activities here.

The El Niņo occurrence, however, will have advantages on fruit trees like mangoes, said Castillo. Mangoes are known to bear more fruits during the dry season.

For fisheries, the provincial government, with the assistance of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is focusing on the production of freshwater prawns.

Castillo said that from the P3.4 million provided by BFAR to Aklan for livelihood, P2.9 million was turned over to Malinao town for the project, which includes the putting up of a freshwater prawn hatchery.

The putting up of the hatchery is essential, said Castillo, as freshwater prawns or "ulang" fries are sourced yet from Nueva Ecija. Presently, Buruanga town in the western side of Aklan already produces "ulang".

The move to develop "ulang" farms in the upland areas of the province is one means to counter the effect of El Niņo, by providing people with alternative source of fishery products when fishermen could no longer fish due to extreme high tides or strong "amihan" winds, according to Castillo.

The province is also strengthening its tilapia and catfish industry in the uplands for additional income of community folks.

"Libacao, which is aiming for a hydropower electric project, whill have a 10 hectare dam essential for the culture of tilapia and "hito" in fish cages," Castillo said. He also revealed that Barangay Aranas in Balete town already maintains a tilapia farm.

Just recently, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reactivated the the el Niņo Task Force to coordinate the country's response to the unusually dry weather in the first half of the year.

Formed in 2001, the task force will still be chaired by the DA.

DA USEC Bernie Fontanilla said agriculture and fisheries are expected to lose between P10 billion and P20 billion, depending on the severity of the dry spell. (PIA) [top]

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