El Nino task force prepares P880-M aid package for farmers, fisherfolk in 5 regions
Davao City (18 February) -- A Department of Agriculture (DA) task force dealing with the latest El Niño onslaught has earmarked an initial P882.18 million for the accelerated implementation of mitigation measures for farmers and fisherfolk in 14 provinces in Luzon and the Visayas, where the dry spell that is expected to last till July has already damaged over 200,000 metric tons (MT) of palay, corn and other crops with an aggregate value of P2.84 billion.
Agriculture Undersecretary Joel Rudinas said yesterday in a briefing here that the slew of mitigation measures that have already been initiated or are set for implementation by the various DA-attached agencies range from cloudseeding to the provision of shallow tube wells (STWs) and open source pump irrigation systems to close monitoring of a possible drought-triggered outbreak of pests and diseases.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the DA’s regional field units (RFUs) in the five El Niño-hit regions are already drawing up with local government units (LGUs) their respective master lists of affected farmers eligible for food aid under the Emergency Food Assistance Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Separate master lists are also being prepared by RFUs and LGUs, he said, for farmer-victims qualified to enroll in skills training programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) or for possible emergency employment for the construction or repair of farm-to-market roads (FMRs) and irrigation facilities.
The cloudseeding in two regions are being supervised by the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BWSM) in cooperation with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
"The task force is stepping up the implementation of mitigation measures in compliance with the latest directive from President Arroyo for the DA and other government agencies concerned to speed up and even expand the delivery of intervention programs that would help our small farmers and fisherfolk cope with the devastating effects of the latest El Niño attack," Rudinas said.
Rudinas gave a briefing not only on the aid package in the drought-stricken regions but also on the measures being undertaken by RFUs elsewhere, following President Arroyo’s interaction the other day with local media people. These journalists had asked her about the measures being taken by Government in the affected provinces as well as in Mindanao in the wake of the prolonged dry spell as projected by PAGASA.
The 14 affected provinces are Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in Northern Luzon; Bulacan and Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon; Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque and Romblon in the MIMAROPA area or Region 4-B; Masbate in Bicol; and Antique, Guimaras and Negros Occidental in Western Visayas.
According to the Feb. 16 situationer report by the DA Central Action Center (DACAC), crops planted in 10,533 hectares have zero chance of recovery while those planted in another 147,633 ha can still recover from the dry spell—or a total of 158,166 ha of affected farmland with 201,237 MT of assorted crops valued at P2.84 billion combined.
Of these affected farms, 35,360 ha are palay fields with 56,696 MT of damaged crops valued at P963.84 million, while 122,748 ha are corn fields with 144,359 MT of damaged crops worth P1.88 billion, said DACAC chief Marites Bernardo in her situationer report.
Worst hit among the 14 provinces is Isabela, which has absorbed palay losses amounting to P1.85 billion from 144,359 MT of damaged crops in a total of 87,850 ha, and corn losses valued at P1.85 billion from 101,609 MT of destroyed crops in 72,157 ha combined, Bernardo said in her report.
The damaged palay fields represent 3.39% of the one million hectares for harvesting over the January-March period while the volume account for 1.5% of the production forecast of 3.79 million MT for the quarter.
The damaged cornfields make up 18.21% of 673,995 ha to be harvested and the volume is 7.27% of the production estimate of 1.99 million MT for the January-March period.
As a result of such farm production losses, Yap said the task force has set aside P52 million for its ongoing cloudseeding in Northern Luzon and Western Visayas and for the planned or requested cloudseeding in Central and Southern Luzon, Bicol Region, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region and SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato-Cotabato- Sultan Kudarat-Saranggani- General Santos).
Some P260 million will be spent on optimizing water delivery and rescheduling by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), P398,930 for the purchase and distribution of 1,500 units of pump and engine sets by the Bureau of Social and Water Management (BWSM) and another 1,000 units of pump and engine sets by the DA-RFU in Northern Luzon.
Another P25 million is earmarked for pests and disease management; P1.149 million for the acquisition of veterinary drugs and biologics; P35 million for mobile diagnostic laboratories, P104 million for fishery inputs and livelihood; and P5.9 million for crop shifting projects.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has already delivered 54,500 bags of salt or sodium chloride worth P19 million for the benefit of 13,625 coconut growers tilling a total of 13,625 ha.
It is also due to bid out the supply of another 300,000 bags of salt worth P150 million for 75,000 coconut farmers tilling 75,000 ha.
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has also started its own cloudseeding with a budget of P2.2 million, and has recommended to the DA the use of 250 units of STWs in heavily affected areas with sources of water to cover 50% of the sugarcane fields in Negros.
As directed by Yap, the RFUs in the affected regions in Luzon and the Visayas have, among others, either been conducting information drives and close monitoring or assessment of the situation in coordination with LGUs to address the concerns of farmers, acquiring and distributing gasoline engine pumps to supply irrigation water, alerting LGUs and farmers on possible occurrence of pests and diseases in their areas, or advising farmers to shift to other crops requiring minimal water.
In Zamboanga Peninsula the RFU has been closely monitoring the effects of El Niño on palay and corn fields, and started master-listing the affected farmers to be enrolled under the DSWD’s food aid program.
In Northern Mindanao, NIA is closely monitoring water source on a 24-hour basis while the RFU there has instructed all operating units to immediately report areas affected by El Niño.
The RFU in Davao Region has started master-listing corn farmers eligible for the DSWD food assistance program while the RFU in SOCCSKSARGEN has already distributed 800 bags of hybrid corn seeds to affected farmers.
In SOCCSKSARGEN, the RFU is also closely monitoring El Niño, distributing 1,300 bags of certified seeds for flash flood-affected farmers, and awaiting submission by LGUs of their requests for organic follar fertilizer and zinc phosphide.
The others who attended the briefing for the media are NIA OIC Adminstrator Alex Reuyan, and RED Region 11 Caloy Mendoza. (DA) [top]