As part of its proactive approach to mitigate the effects of the El Niño phenomenon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has directed its regional offices, bureaus and attached agencies to strengthen the monitoring of drought incidence in their respective areas.
The order includes an intensified monitoring and reporting of the initial manifestation of the El Niño phenomenon, including damage estimates and proposed interventions to help affected farms recover.
“Field validation is ongoing and DA will come up with figures at the soonest possible time,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said, citing Pagasa’s announcement of a prevailing mild case of El Niño.
Alcala said they are hoping that the weather phenomenon will have minimal effect on major crops as initial reports from the field show that a significant number of rice and corn crops have been harvested as early as February.
The DA chief urged affected farmers to report crop losses to their municipal agriculturists, who will in turn pass the information to the concerned DA regional offices for the replacement of seeds and other forms of assistance.
“We will try our best that in the next cropping, after this mild El Niño ends, we will provide them with replacement seeds to lessen their losses,” Alcala said.
Weather forecasters on Wednesday said the country is in the midst of El Niño.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) warned the public to brace for “uncomfortable heat” which may last until the end of the year.
It warned that the temperature may reach as high as 37.3 degrees Celsius this weekend.
“(This) human discomfort index gives the ‘apparent’ temperature or what humans perceive or feel as the temperature affecting their body.
High air temperatures and high relative humidity will give high apparent temperatures or indices,” the weather bureau said.
Alcala said sufficient irrigation water is crucial for rice and corn and that the DA is continuously coordinating with the National Irrigation Administration for better management of agricultural water.
“We are also campaigning among farmers to employ water saving techniques,” he added.
The DA chief has started distribution of drought-resistant palay seeds, and assisted farmers in adjusting their cropping season to avoid the so-called disaster-prone months.
Learning from previous impacts of the El Niño phenomenon, the DA is now taking a proactive stance to minimize its effects. As early as mid-last year, Alcala has reactivated its National El Niño Task Force composed of regional offices and various attached agencies and bureaus.
The task force was charged to coordinate DA’s various El Niño interventions—aptly called El Niño Mitigation and Adaptation Plan—with other government agencies and organizations such as the National Risk Reduction and Management Council. Funding requirement to carry out measures under the plan totaled P1.8 billion as requested by DA from the Department of Budget of Management.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Field Operations Emerson Palad said there is no need to revise the government’s growth target for agriculture this year.
“For one, there is no official announcement as to what areas will be affected,” Palad said.
Palad said they are coordinating with Pagasa for the identification of areas that could possibly suffer the hardest from possible drought.