Agri dep’t girds for El Niño

By FREDA MAE SORSANO

ILOILO — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is bracing for the El Niño phenomenon, which the state weather bureau said will happen next month.

Its top priority is the protection of farmers and their crops in the long absence of rainfall, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday said.

Alcala said the department’s staff started conducting cloud-seeding activities in various areas last month.

“We have started working on ‘seedable’ clouds to induce rainfall,” he said. “If ever may makita kaming ‘seedable’ clouds, nililiparan talaga namin para i-cloud-seed.”

Alcala was at the DA Bureau of Plant Industry office in Sta. Barbara town yesterday morning.

In the afternoon, he graced the turnover of DA projects to the local government unit and farmers of Barotac Viejo.

The DA has to do its job even though it is still reeling from the impact of a recent tragedy that took the lives of two of its personnel, said Alcala.

The tragedy, the secretary assured, will not deter the department from performing its obligations.

On April 27, an aircraft carrying DA staffers who conducted cloud seeding crashed in Nueva Vizcaya.

The fatalities were identified as Leilani Naga and Melvin Simangan, both of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management under the DA; the plane pilot Philip Jubane; and the aircrew Christopher Evan Borja.

Alcala said cloud-seeding activities will be intensified this year.

A method of weather alteration, cloud seeding is done to enhance the cloud’s ability to produce rain. Certain substances are dispelled into the air to induce rainfall.

It is often used as a remedial measure in areas where there is drought.

“We will perform cloud seeding not only in areas with existing dams or water generators but also in any area in the Philippines that have standing crops,” he said.

Kahit hindi umuulan, kapag walang halaman, ’di po kami magka-cloud seeding,” he stressed.

The DA is closely coordinating with the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in determining areas most vulnerable to El Niño.

PAGASA earlier reported that Western Visayas is one of the regions most likely to have lesser corn production due to the long drought.

Alcala also said they have prepared additional measures to help farmers get better yield.

“We will be distributing drought-tolerant seeds, like soya and legumes, to the farmers,” he said. “We are also coordinating with mass media [organizations] to inform farmers what crops should and should not be planted during the sunny season.”/PN