The Department of Agriculture (DA) has started its island-wide consultation and planning workshops with various small-scale irrigation associations (SWISA) as part of the preparation for the worst drought to hit the country in 17 years.
In a statement, the DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) said that the workshop aims to identify possible and alternative measures that would mitigate the impact of drought and determine the capability needs of SWISAs, and to find ways on how the members can participate in the project’s implementation.
According to state weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), an estimate of 60 provinces in the country would be affected by the drought.
Because of the El Niño phenomenon, Pagasa projects that rainfall would be below normal and the prolonged dry season may last until next year.
DA Undersecretary Emerson Palad said that involving SWISAs is vital to the agriculture sector in preparation for the adverse impacts of El Niño.
“Irrigation is a key element to agricultural productivity. We need then to promptly identify measures on how we adapt our irrigation systems to the challenges of El Niño such that we could sustain our productivity,” Palad said.
BSWM Executive Director Silvino Tejada announced that P10 billion would be allotted to the bureau for small-scale irrigation projects to be implemented from the last quarter of 2015 to 2016.
“With this [funding], we can now further improve our agricultural irrigation systems, enabling us to produce commodities competitive with products in the international market,” Tejada said.
The series of consultations were held in Pampanga for the Luzon cluster, Iloilo City for the Visayas cluster, and Cagayan de Oro for the Mindanao Cluster.
With a total membership of 1,488 associations and 70,000 individuals nationwide, a national convention of SWISA members will be held in Davao City in October to further discuss the concerns of small irrigation groups.
Additional budget for the program
Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Field Operation Edilberto de Luna said they have already submitted the proposal to the Department of Budget and Management for an additional P940-million to fund the mitigation and adaptation programs in rice-producing provinces affected by the prolonged dry spell.
“Based on the latest report by Pagasa, areas to be affected by the dry spell will include major rice production areas, including the Region 1 (Ilocos), Region 2 (Cagayan), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4-B (MIMAROPA), and Region 6 (Bicol),” de Luna told reporters.
Of the proposed budget, some P618 million will be allocated for water management; P259 million for production support; P24 million for information, education, and communication campaign; and P17 million for program management.
The amount, the official said, is on top of this year’s P7 billion budget for the DA-National Rice Program and the P500 million quick response fund.
“The additional support program will be given only to farmers and cooperatives who have expressed interest to continue planting despite the prevailing drought,” de Luna added.
Based on the latest report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s palay (grain) production reached 8.32 million metric tons (MT) in January-June 2015, lower by 0.7 percent than the 8.38 million MT a year ago as harvest areas contracted due to insufficient water supply and intense heat brought by the El Nino phenomenon.
For the third quarter of 2015, PSA expects output to continue its downward trend as probable palay production and harvest area may decline by 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent from their respective levels in 2014.
On the other hand, yield may improve from 4.01 MT per hectare to 4.02 MT, or by 0.3 percent.
Based on standing crop, the July-September 2015 production may drop by 14.5 percent from 3.03 million MT in 2014 to 2.59 million MT this year.
Meanwhile, farmers’ planting intentions for October-December 2015 production and harvest area indicate positive growth by 5.1 percent each when compared to their respective levels a year ago. Yield is expected to remain at 4.05 MT per hectare.
For the entire 2015, palay production may reach 18.86 million MT, which is 0.6 percent below the 18.97 million MT output in 2014 as harvest areas.