AS part of its proactive strategy against a possible dry spell, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is ready to undertake cloud seeding operations in areas with no rain for at least a week.
“We are taking a proactive stance against the threat of a long dry spell even as Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is saying El Niño is not yet in sight,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said.
Alcala has instructed all regional field offices to monitor lack of rainfall and immediately coordinate with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) in the next seven to 10 days.
BSWM is a DA-attached agency tasked to undertake cloud seeding sorties to induce rain in drought-affected farming communities.
“This will allow the BSWM to mobilize the cloud seeding team in a timely manner,” Alcala said.
As of March 27, the BSWM cloud seeding operation has completed 35 sorties covering 41 hours and 47 minutes of flying hours across rain-deprived municipalities of Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan in Quirino Province, and the Magat Watershed areas.
The DA regional field unit II said the sorties helped induce rain showers and prevented damage to some 4,155 hectares of corn farms around the province—3,490 hectares of which are in the reproductive stage and 665 hectares in the vegetative stage.
Besides cloud seeding operations, the DA is ready to provide shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers in any part of the country that will be affected by the dry spell.
As part of long-term measures, DA is also involved in the repair, rehabilitation and construction of new irrigation systems, as well as in the establishment of small water impounding facilities to help guarantee agricultural water even during dry months.
From 2011 to December 2013, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has generated 128,242 hectares of new areas, restored 90,851 hectares and rehabilitated 453,636 hectares. NIA aims to expand total irrigated lands to 1.9 million hectares by 2016 from the current 1.67 million hectares.
Pagasa has yet to issue a formal advisory on the occurrence of El Niño while global weather authorities are cautious at this point to declare that the phenomenon is happening this year.
In its latest monthly advisory released in March, the National Prediction Service of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is a 50 percent chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall (July, August, and September).
El Niño is the warming of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years. The worst El Niño episode to hit the country occurred in 1997-1998 when more than P8-billion worth of crops was destroyed.