MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) reported initial losses amounting to some P464.27 million with an estimated volume of 22,918 metric tons (MT) of produce due to the “weak” El Nino that is affecting the country’s farmlands.
As of March 11, total damaged farm lands were placed at 13,679 hectares affecting some 16,034 farmers and fisherfolks.
According to the DA Disaster Risk and Reduction Operation Center, affected provinces were Occidental Mindoro, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Davao del Sur, Cotabato, and Maguindanao.
For rice alone, some P377.85 million were recorded damaged with 17,233 MT volume production losses planted to 9,860 hectares, affecting 7,851 farmers.
Around P86.42 million losses for corn were recorded with volume production at 5,686 MT. Total areas affected were 3,819 hectares affecting 8,183 farmers.
The DA is continuously conducting field validation to assess damages and losses incurred in other provinces and monitor standing crops in areas at risk of being affected by the weather phenomenon.
Agriculture secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol, in a press briefing on Tuesday, said he has already ordered the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) to immediately release crop insurance payments to insured farm lands that cover 100 percent of damage.
He also ensured affected farmers and fisherfolks of the availability of production loss easy access (PLEA) grants and survival and recovery (SURE) loan grants.
The DA chief also ordered the prepositioning of seed reserves for rice and corn.
A total of P18.3 million has already been released for cloud seeding operations to regional field offices.
Cloud seeding was recommended in Regions 2 and 12, which are scheduled between March 14 and May 21.
Piñol said he already issued a directive to DA Operations Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan to order the DA Regional Offices to implement cloud seeding operations.
Cayanan was also directed to coordinate with the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for the cloud-seeding operations over Bulacan, Pampanga and Rizal to fill up La Mesa Dam, he added.
As early as last year, Piñol said, funds were already transferred to the DA Regional Offices and the Philippine Air Force for cloud-seeding operations in preparation for the El Niño.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the effects of El Niño will be felt in southern Mindanao and northern Luzon areas until the end of April towards May.
In other parts of the country, especially the western part, the weak El Niño will continue until the first two weeks of December, which will include Palawan, Mindoro, and the eastern part of Panay Island including Negros Occidental, he noted.
“It should be noted ang maagang makakawala sa epekto ng El Niño (areas that will be free of the effects of El Nino the earliest) would be areas where we produce a lot of rice and corn, that ‘s Mindanao and Cagayan Valley areas, he added.
On the national scale, the DA chief has placed damage to crops at less than one percent as rice farmers have already harvested their crops. (PNA)