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PIA Press Release

Siquijor gears up as El Niņo looms

By Rizalie Anding Calibo

Siquijor (11 February) -- Provincial Governor Orlando A. Fua Jr. earlier bared that the provincial government is gearing towards putting up measures to prevent the worst effects of El Niņo phenomenon which experts say affect the country this year.

During the Farmers Field Day at Tagmanocan, Lazi, the governor announced that he is proposing for the construction of an impounding dam to serve as a reservoir that stores rainfall and run-off during the rainy season for future use. Nationwide, the government has been harvesting rainwater through water impounding projects for irrigation to lessen the negative impact of the long heat wave on farmers.

Fua also cited the establishment of rain gauges to determine rain falls and the existing water level in the province. He said these are some of the measures the provincial government are doing to mitigate El Niņo and assure the farmers of abundant harvest despite intense heat brought by the phenomenon.

The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist is also giving technical advises to farmers on planting drought-resistant.

Meanwhile, the government is rationalizing the use of irrigation water by scheduling their use in farming communities as part of the conservation measures it is currently implementing to ease the impact of the El Niņo dry spell on the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said that while water in irrigation facilities and dams remain adequate, it is better to conserve this precious commodity while the country is experiencing a moderate El Nino attack.

Citing the assessment by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Fondevilla said in media interviews that while the latest onslaught of El Niņo appears to be a mild or moderate one, it could be longer than usual, though, and could possibly last till July instead of only in May or June.

"We are rationalizing the use of irrigation water but that doesn?t mean that it is not enough," Fondevilla said. "Water supply remains adequate for our farms and we are just resorting to conservation in the face of a PAGASA-forecasted prolonged dry spell this year. So what we will do is to provide our farmers with just enough water that they need and schedule its release so that we wouldn?t waste water in irrigating their croplands. "

Fondevilla said the DA will coordinate with local government units (LGUs) so it can maximize the use of irrigation water by scheduling or synchronizing its release in El Niņo-affected farms.

He said water conservation measures should be implemented even beyond El Niņo?s onslaught as part of the government?s long-term measures to ensure the adequate supply of water to farms.

"The DA, for one, is now studying a plan to place concrete linings in irrigation canals to prevent water seepage," he said.

Earlier, Fondevilla said the DA is realigning P1.2 billion from its regular budget this year to bankroll a slew of El Niņo mitigation measures.

On top of rationalizing the release of irrigation water, the other mitigation measures include cloud seeding operations over watershed areas; provision of pumps, engine sets, fishcages, vegetable seeds; building small scale irrigation facilities; and alternative livelihood assistance.

Of this amount, the DA is carrying out P570 million-worth of intervention measures for the palay sector, Fondevilla said.

Under its 2010 El Niņo Mitigation Program, the DA will also set aside P613.7 million to carry out intervention programs for the corn subsector; another P411 million for high value commercial crops (HVCC); and P117.4 million more for fisheries, Fondevilla said.

As early as December last year, the DA had already created its own task force to carry out programs to raise crop production along with farmers? incomes in the face of the then-looming El Niņo attack.

This DA task force is focusing in mitigation efforts on 23 "highly vulnerable" areas and 24 "moderately vulnerable" areas in the country.

The highly vulnerable areas are Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Cavite, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Palawan, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga City, Sarangani and South Cotabato.

As for the "moderately vulnerable" areas, these are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Romblon, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Samar, Zamboanga Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Sur, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Davao Sur and Davao City.

ondevilla said that based on studies made by the Department, a total of 453,204 hectares of land planted to palay, 227,843 hectares of corn areas and 14,160 hectares in the fisheries sector are threatened under a prolonged El Niņo attack.

Total production losses under a mild El Niņo scenario could reach P8.09 billion and P20.46 billion under a severe dry spell, Fondevilla said.

Under a mild El Niņo, he said the DA estimates losses of 264,940 metric tons of rice worth close to P4 billion and 174,224 MT of corn valued at P2.26 billion.

The fisheries subsector could lose 21,181 MT of catch worth P1.27 billion, he said, while losses in the HVCC sector could reach 3.17 million MT valued at P583 million under a mild El Niņo attack.

He said a severe dry spell could lead to losses of 816,372 MT of rice worth P12.24 billion;440, 429 MT of corn worth P5.2 billion; 42,362 MT of marine catch worth P2.54 billion; and 3.08 million MT of HVCCs worth 443 million. (with DA Press Office) [top]

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