By Madelaine Miraflor
The damage incurred by the agriculture sector from El Niño has breached the billion mark in just a matter of days.
The latest report of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Field Programs Operational Planning Division showed that the weak El Niño being experienced by some parts of the country already resulted to damage and losses worth P1.33 billion, from just P464 million last week, destroying a combined amount of 78,343 metric tons (MT) of farm output.
The drought in several areas had so far affected 84,932 farmers and fisherfolks, with as much as 70,353 hectares of agricultural areas damaged in Regions 2, 7, 11, 12, MIMAROPA, among others.
Right now, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) have already conducted joint area assessment for pre-cloud seeding operations in some of these areas, while cloud seeding operations for Regions II, XI and XII will start this week.
The DA said it will continuously conduct field validation to assess the damage and losses and will keep on monitoring of standing crops in areas at risk.
There is also a National El Niño Task Force which was tasked to plan, monitor and coordinate various activities in mitigating the impact of El Niño.
The agency is now on standby to release and utilize its Quick Response Fund (QRF) for the rehabilitation of areas to be affected by El Niño.
QRF is a built-in budgetary allocation that represents pre-disaster or standby funds for agencies in order to immediately assist areas stricken by catastrophes and crisis.
Unlike the calamity fund, the QRF does not require the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC) or the approval of Office of the President (OP) to allow its use and release.
Right now, DA’s QRF has at least P800 million, after it used 20 percent of it in January to deal with the damage and losses brought about by Typhoon Usman.
Based on the report of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), weak El Niño conditions are still present and are expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring (March-April-May).
This means there will be three consecutive months of below-normal rainfall (21 percent to 60 percent reduction from average) across different parts of the country or two months of consecutive way below normal rainfall (more than 60 percent reduction from average) in other areas.
Right now, the local government units (LGUs) of Negros Oriental and Cebu are ready to implement measures to mitigate the impact of dry spell into their provinces.