El Niño Dispatch
DA orders speedy distribution of aid package to farmers reeling from El Niño attack
Agriculture Acting Secretary Bernie Fondevilla has ordered field officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to work with local government units (LGUs) on the speedy distribution of a package of assistance to palay and corn farmers in Isabela, Cagayan and other provinces already reeling from the crippling effects of the latest El Niño attack, which is projected to last longer than usual until July this year.
Fondevilla directed officials of the DA’s regional field units (RFUs) to ensure that this aid package that includes seeds, open source pumps and fuel subsidies for water pumps, do reach the intended farmer-beneficiarie s soon enough, and to step up their monitoring developments so the Department can get an accurate picture of the situation and carry out all needed intervention programs for the actual number of farmer-victims.
“Our RFUs have been directed to coordinate with LGU executives the distribution of the government’s aid package to affected palay an corn farmers in the drought-stricken provinces and, more importantly, to ensure that such assistance do reach the intended beneficiaries as soon as possible,” Fondevilla said.
“They should also intensify their monitoring activities so the DA can get an accurate picture of the El Niño-related damage and then be able to determine what other intervention measures are needed and for exactly how many affected farmers,” he added.
Given the extent of the damage, he said, a state of calamity has already been declared by the provincial governments of Isabela and Cagayan in their respective provinces.
“The Department started its mitigation measures as early as September 16, 2009 as we have already supported early planting of rice,” Undersecretary Joel Rudinas said, who heads the DA Task Force El Nino.
As earlier ordered by Fondevilla, who chairs the task force on mitigation measures against this latest El Niño attack, RFUs started carrying out intervention measures in January, including cloud-seeding operations with the help of Aboitiz Corp. covering the Magat Dam, and the distribution of an initial 115 units of Open Source Pumps (CPS) through RFU Region II and the National Irrigation Administration- Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-MARIIS).
Villacorta reported that as early as December last year, the RFU in the region already purchased rodenticides and insecticides and has, since then, treated 10,000 hectares as a preemptive measure against possible outbreaks of rodents and other pests/diseases that could be triggered by the dry spell.
He said the RFU is set to distribute 25,000 packets of assorted vegetable seeds to affected farmers and has already bidded out the contract for the supply of another P10 million-worth of assorted vegetable seeds for distribution to farmers with totally damaged crops.
Also, the RFU is negotiating for the acquisition of OSPs and has started providing fuel subsidies to farmers with water pumps, he said.
This fuel subsidy program has been piloted in two municipalities under a counterparting scheme with the concerned local governments, he said, and this project will be expanded to eventually cover all towns in the region where affected farmers own water pumps.
Villacorta said water conservation is being promoted in the affected areas through rotational irrigation by NIA and the launching of a public information blitz through local radio and print outlets and dialogues with Irrigators’ Associations (IAs).
He has also proposed additional intervention measures like livelihood projects, emergency food assistance and emergency employment to affected farmers.
Anticipating such farmers’ woes, Fondevilla earlier ordered a realignment of the DA national budget for this year to raise P1.71 billion for assorted intervention measures aimed at mitigating potential production losses of P8 billion to P20 billion in the agriculture sector arising from an El Niño attack.
Fondevilla said the array of mitigation measures include cloud-seeding operations in watershed areas; construction of shallow tube wells; provision of fishcages, vegetable seeds, building of small scale irrigation facilities; and provision of livelihood assistance.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) reported in 2009 that this year’s El Niño would likely be moderate but could possibly last till July instead of the usual May or June.
Fondevilla said the DA’s El Niño task force will focus its mitigation program this year on “vulnerable” areas in the country.
These areas considered vulnerable provinces to an onslaught of El Niño or a dry spell are Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan,
Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Mt Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Romblon, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Samar, Zamboanga Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Sur, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Davao Sur and Davao City. (DA Press Office)