El Niño damage to agriculture doubles to ₱2.7 billion

By Carolyn Bonquin, CNN Philippines

Damage to agriculture caused by a prolonged dry spell across many parts of the country has doubled to ₱2.7 billion from last week, according to the National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) report on Wednesday.

The NDRRMC said the dry spell has affected 22 provinces and municipalities in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, SOCCSKSARGEN and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

As of March 19, the government’s estimate of crop damage since the start of 2019 was at ₱1.3 billion, but the figure has since risen to ₱2.675 billion.

In North Cotabato alone, more than 71,900 families or more than 359,000 people are suffering from dry conditions.

A state of calamity has been declared in parts of MIMAROPA, Zamboanga Peninsula, CARAGA and BARMM.

Based on data from NDRRMC and the Department of Agriculture, the following areas are under a state of calamity:

•Alamada, Cotabato (February 11)

•M’lang, Cotabato (February 13)

•Pikit, Cotabato (February 18)

•Aleosan, Cotabato (February 19)

•Pagalungan, Maguindanao (March 4)

•San Jose, Occidental Mindoro (March 5)

•Zamboanga City (March 5)

•Magpet, Cotabato (March 6)

•Upi, Maguindanao (March 6)

•Rizal, Occidental Mindoro (March 7)

•Magpet, Cotabato (March 6)

•Occidental Mindoro (March,no specific date)

•Arakan, Cotabato (March 10)

•Cotabato province (March 12)

•Matalam, Cotabato (March 13)

•Wao, Lanao del Sur (March 11)

•Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao (March 13)

Most of the crops damaged are rice (₱1.448 billion) and corn (₱410.286 million). Region VIII suffered the biggest loss in rice production at P387.2 million pesos worth of the staple.

Antonio Gerundio, MIMAROPA agriculture regional director, said 19 percent of farms in Occidental Mindoro have been damaged, mostly planted with rice.

Of 2,000 hectares of farmland, 402 hectares are totally damaged.

Although the Agriculture department said damage to crops would not affect food supply, Gerundio said the state of calamity declaration will allow local governments to tap calamity funds to help farmers.

Gerundio said 3,200 farmers in Mindoro are affected and most of them have no money nor harvest to feed their family.

Alam mo naman mahirap ang mga farmers natin wala ka na makain kaya we are asking DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) to provide food packs at the same time kung may maibigay silang alternative livelihood so ang cash for work kung maari maactivate mamobilize nila ito,” Gerundio said.

[Translation: You know our farmers are poor, they have nothing to eat. We are asking the DSWD to provide food packs. At the same time, if they could provide livelihood or cash for work, hopefully they can mobilize this.]

Farmers have also requested seedlings from the DA ahead of the rainy season.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said El Niño preparation is crucial to mitigate the impact of the dry spell.

Piñol is pushing for the funding and construction of solar powered irrigation as a cheaper alternative to fuel-powered water pumps.

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