Agriculture dept readies measures against ‘stronger’ El Niño

Erwin P. Nicavera

THE Department of Agriculture-Negros Island Region (DA-NIR) is readying measures to counter possible adverse effects of the El Niño phenomenon in the agro-fishery sector of the region.

DA Regional Director Joyce Wendam said they have put in place various mitigation and adaption measures like provision of seeds, fertilizers and machineries to mitigate the impact especially to the rice sector.

Wendam said these initiatives were also implemented last year when the region especially Negros Occidental experienced dry spell resulting to damage and losses amounting to at least P470 million.

“We have available buffer stocks of certified rice seeds at the Philippine Rice Research Institute-Negros Occidental in Murcia ready for distribution anytime,” Wendam said, adding that DA-NIR has already instructed all city and municipal agriculture offices to monitor whether there is already a need to distribute seed and other farm inputs.

The Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) already coordinated with the DA-NIR last week on areas that need immediate cloud seeding.

DA-NIR is now working with the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in the two provinces in identifying these areas.

Last year, the DA allocated almost P416 million worth of comprehensive El Niño mitigation and adaption measures to address the effects of the prolonged dry weather in Negros Occidental.

For 2017, Wendam said they have yet to finalize the total budget requirement, but the DA central office has initially allocated P1 billion for the Survival Recovery Loan program covering all calamity-affected farmers and fisherfolk in the country.

She said that identified recipients of the program will be given a grant of P10,000 each, and recovery loan worth P20,000.

“Farmers and fisherfolk in the region may avail of the assistance provided they are within an area declared under state of calamity,” Wendam said.

Stronger El Niño

The Provincial Disaster Management Program Division (PDMPD) of Negros Occidental said Negrenses should brace for “stronger” effects of El Niño seen up to the last part of the year.

Benjie Ballesteros, weather forecaster of PDMPD, Thursday said the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration projected a longer El Niño period this year.

Ballesteros said during the onset of El Niño the province is expected to have lesser chances of rainfall contributing to a hotter temperature.

“Cloud seeding operations should start at least two months before the projected onset of El Niño in December to allay its possible adverse effects,” Ballesteros said.

PDMPD monitoring showed Northeast Monsoon or “Amihan” will start prevailing by November this year until February 2018. Little or no chance of rainfall normally occurs during this period, it added.