Task force reiterates readiness to help farmers against El Nino
Iloilo City (20 February) -- Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Executive Director and Task Force El Nino chair Larry Nacionales reassured the public that the DA and other members of regional Task Force El Nino are readying measures to mitigate the effects of the prolonged dry spell on agriculture and fisheries.
Nacionales pointed out during a press conference held February 19 that since the weather disturbance is now being felt what they will do from now on is to focus interventions on crops that have been planted and to enjoin farmers to cooperate with them in pursuing the mitigating measures especially in vulnerable areas.
In the same forum, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Drusila Esther Bayate disclosed that they are ready to help farmers engaged in inland fisheries who will encounter problems.
National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Regional Director Edilberto Lumigo said NIA is instituting contingencies to ensure the proper management and control of available irrigation water supply considering the fact the vital farm input comes mostly from surface water that depends on rainfall.
For his part, National Food Authority (NFA) Regional Manager Miguel Wycoco said contingency measures are in order and their rice stocks have been positioned properly to respond to supply gaps.
The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) is ready to assist farmers who have insured their crops with the agency, according to Officer in Charge Charlito Brilleta.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has readied emergency assistance programs for affected farmers who would need such assistance, including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Food-for-Work, and Cash-for-Work.
Regional Director Joel Galicia said they will coordinate with the NFA for other fallback measures through the Tindahan Natin and Food-for-School.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has similar emergency assistance measures in the form of alternative livelihood programs.
Nacionales acknowledged the role of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) headed by Regional Director Rosario Cabrera in the entire effort of the task force especially in the declaration of affected areas under a state of calamity.
Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) Regional Director Ireneo Olivares said that they are monitoring, assessing and validating damage reports of local government units. The reports are used as basis for the declaration of a state of calamity in a community or the entire country.
While admitting the possible further damage that the dry spell can inflict on agriculture and fisheries, Nacionales also averred that the situation also presents good opportunities to farmers who cultivate fruits, vegetables and other crops that can thrive well under dry weather conditions.
It will be recalled that the task force has embarked on strategies and interventions to help the agriculture and fisheries sector cope with the El Nino since last year following PAGASA forecasts of the occurrence of the phenomenon.
These include irrigation system management, cloud seeding, provision of genetic materials, pest management, livelihood assistance, farm-to-market roads, and direct food assistance.
Nacionales said it has considered cloud seeding particularly in Negros Occidental to help sugar farmers provide adequate irrigation to the province's major crop which is sugarcane.
The provincial government has initiated cloud seeding operations in the province this month in coordination with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).
As of this February 1, DA records showed the weather disturbance has caused damage to crops worth P635.5 million and affected 29,177 farmers.
Nacionales said he has requested support from the national government for the implementation of strategies and interventions in the region.
The actions of the regional task force are part of the national El Nino contingency program ordered stepped up by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (PIA 6) [top]