By Madelaine B. Miraflor
In the span of four months, the current El Niño phenomenon has already destroyed more than 200,000 metric tons (MT) of Philippines’ farm output worth around P4 billion.
A data from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRM) showed that damages and losses the agriculture sector had so far incurred from El Niño already went up from P1.33 billion to 4.33 billion, affecting 138,859 farmers and fisherfolks.
Production losses particularly ballooned from 78,343 MT to 233,007 MT, while damaged agriculture areas went up from 70,353 to 149,494 hectares. Comparisons were made based on the reports released by DA’s Field Programs Operational Planning Division on March 19 and March 31.
It was in February when Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) officially declared that the country is already experiencing mild El Niño, which actually begun in the last quarter of 2018.
In terms of farm output, some of the most affected areas by the drought include Rizal province, Occidental Mindoro, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Negros Occidental.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported last week that agricultural damage caused by El Niño has already reached P2.6 billion, with Soccsksargen as the most affected region, but Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol questioned the report’s accuracy.
Piñol said in an earlier report that El Niño had done little so far to pull down the country’s rice production, which is still expected to end the year at record level of 20 million MT, higher than the 19 million MT produced last year.
“Our data gathering in DA [Department of Agriculture] is more accurate because we use this in insurance payment to farmers. We have asked the DA’s field offices to validate the numbers because these came from LGUs [local government units] and NDRRMC admitted that,” Piñol said.
“And we have to understand, at this point in time, it’s election and everybody wants to declare a state of calamity. It will give them access to their calamity funds,” he added.
Right now, DA’s field validation on the impact of El Niño to agriculture sector is still on-going.
The agency, through its financing arm Agriculture Credit Policy Council (ACPC), had set aside 95.875 million as financial assistance to as much as 3,835 farmers, while Philippine Crop insurance Corp. (PCIC) already paid 43.083 million in insurance to 3,534 affected farmers.
Cloud seeding operations to affected areas are also now on-going.
Despite this, the DA chief has remained optimistic about the overall performance of the farm sector during the first three months of the year.
According to the PAGASA, El Niño conditions are expected to last until end of May or June this year and could affect 42 provinces.