Ulysses damage to agri sector still rising

Published November 20, 2020, 12:54 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Typhoon Ulysses’ damage to the agriculture sector is still rising more than a week since this year’s deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippines made landfall, and a group thinks it’s okay to blame it all on the government.

Based on the latest data from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), Ulysses’ total damage and losses to the farm sector rose to P4.03 billion from the previously reported P3.84 billion.

This handout aerial photo taken and recieved on November 14, 2020 from the Philippine Coast Guard shows submerged houses in Cagayan province, north of Manila, on November 14, 2020, days after Typhoon Vamco hit parts of the country bringing heavy rain and flooding. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP) /

So far, the government was also able to take note of the 102,500 farmers and fisherfolk that were affected by the typhoon.

This, while 99,660 hectares of agricultural areas were destroyed, incurring production losses of about 167,385 metric tons (MT) as of Friday.

The affected commodities include rice, corn, high value crops, fisheries, livestock and poultry, while irrigation facilities and agricultural infrastructures were also destroyed in Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON and Bicol Region.

As this happens, Ben Punongbayan, Chairman and Founder of the Buklod National Movement, said it was the government’s fault why the recent typhoons that hit the country were so destructive.

He said there are two major areas of government ineffectiveness, including the “practically non-existent mitigation measures of the destructive effects of the perennial typhoons” and the “insufficient warning and mobilization to get the citizens well prepared and out of the most dangerous areas”. 

“The Philippines is visited by more than a score of typhoons every year. One would expect that we are now experts in dealing with the mitigation of the deaths, destruction, chaos and suffering that they inflict,” Punongbayan said.

“Unfortunately, over so many long years, the visible things that citizens see after each typhoon—especially the big ones—are the counting of the dead and estimating the value of the destruction. What is missing and not felt are the measures that could have substantially reduced the number of deaths and the extent of the destruction and chaos,” he added.

To recall, Ulysses made landfall in the Philippines just less than a week after Super Typhoon Rolly’s wrath was felt in different parts of Luzon, especially the Bicol region. Before Rolly, the country was also hit by Quinta and Pepito.  

Punongbayan said that the first line of defense against flash floods and landslides are the forests but over the years, the country has not taken good care of its forests and illegal logging has been a continuing and persistent menace.

:As a result, the people are practically naked and defenseless when the typhoons come and they come every year over a period of six months, without exception,” Punongbayan said.
According to an earlier published data, the Philippine Forest Management Bureau indicated that the Philippines had a forest cover of 70 percent out of the total land area of 30 million hectares in 1900. This cover had dramatically gone down to 22 percent in 2007. 

In an earlier report, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also reported that the Philippines lost an average of about 54,700 hectares of forest per year from 1990 to 2010.

“Obviously, the country needs to deliberately accelerate the increase in our forest area to effectively mitigate the destructive effects of the perennial typhoons,” said Punongbayan.

Meanwhile, DA said it is continuously conducting field validation to further assess the damage and losses in the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Furthermore, rehabilitation and recovery plans of concerned DA regional field offices are already being processed for funding under the Quick Response Fund (QRF).