The Department of Agriculture this week said damage to crop brought by the El Niño phenomenon has reached nearly P10 billion but remains lower than expected because of the government’s timely mitigation, particularly in rice.
Agriculture Undersecretary Emerson Palad said crop losses from February to December 2015 amounted to P3.4 billion while P6.5 billion in losses was recorded in the first quarter of 2016.
Palad said Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) had the biggest loss at P2.462 billion, followed by Region VI (Western Visayas) with P1.9 billion and Region 12 (Soccskargen) with P748 million.
Mitigation, however, prevented a bigger damage. “Because of this, the projected loss of the rice program was at 900,000 metric tons but we ended up losing more than 200,000 MT,” Palad said.
Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration administrator Vicente Malano said there are 23 provinces that have experienced 60 percent rainfall reduction, among them Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Zambonga and part of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Of the 23 affected areas, seven provinces have declared a state of calamity according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. These are Isabela, Quirino, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur, Cotabato, Maguindanao and Basilan.
Meanwhile, Socioeconomic Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra who chairs the inter-agency task force implementing the Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Niño, said while the government is continuing its job to address the dry spell, there are still gaps.
Esguerra cited a Social Weather Stations survey, conducted between Dec. 5 and 8, 2015, the 2015 average hunger rate of 13.4 percent is the lowest annual average hunger rate since 2004. Moreover, hunger in Mindanao fell by 8.7 points from 21.7 percent to 13.0 percent. This brought the 2015 average Mindanao hunger rate to 15.8 percent, the lowest since the 13.3 percent annual average in 2005.
“We recognize that there could be areas that are feeling the brunt of El Niño and for this, the role of LGUs is very crucial. We are certainly bothered by the fact that there are people who still go hungry. There could be areas that are not yet being reached by government interventions,” he said.
Esguerra said while the supply of food and production and other types of support such as distribution of food packs seems enough, the challenge is in making the distribution system much more efficient so that these actually reach the affected families in a timely fashion.
“We need to consider that some of the services are devolved to LGUs and so we need to strengthen coordination with LGUs,” he said.
“We need to increase support for farmers to augment their incomes. For this, we need to accelerate programs like cash-for-work and emergency employment,” he added.
He also added that the government must improve its coordination from the national to the local level, as well as its communication with affected families.
RAIN is aimed at mitigating the impact of the El Niño phenomenon on four areas: Food security, energy security, health, and safety. The action plan focuses on 67 El Niño-affected provinces throughout the country, including Metro Manila.