THE government has been fairly successful in mitigating impacts of El Niño but there are gaps that need to be addressed, officials admitted on Tuesday.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reported on the status of the El Niño Action Plan or the Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Niño (RAIN), the program to mitigate the impacts of the drought in four areas—food security, energy security, health and safety.
The action plan focuses on 67 provinces affected by El Niño, including Metro Manila.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel Esguerra said through the action plan, the government managed to ensure food sufficiency.
“This is through production support like irrigation and distribution of seeds in non-vulnerable and mildly-affected provinces; timely importation; and price freeze in areas that declared state of calamity,” he added.
Esguerra, also NEDA director-general, said the prices of food, particularly rice, had been stable in the past months.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said damage from drought has been lower than feared.
Overall crop losses amounted to P9.9 billion, P3.4 billion losses from February to December 31, 2015; and P6.5 billion losses from January to April 2, 2016.
Region 10 incurred the biggest loss in terms of production at P2.462 billion, followed by Region 6 with P1.9 billion and Region 12, P748 million.
“This is lower than what we have expected if not for timely mitigation that we have done particularly in rice. The projected loss of the rice program was at 900,000 metric tons (MT), but we end up losing more than 200,000MT,” said Agriculture Undersecretary Emerson Palad.
The DA official said damage in terms of land area was also lower for this period compared to the past years.
Palad mentioned that for the February 2015 to April 2016 period, areas damaged by El Niño reached 373,494 hectares (ha), which is lower than the 677,441 ha in 1997-1998 and 555,102 ha in 2010.
Of the 23 provinces hit by severe drought, only seven declared a state of calamity — Isabela, Quirino, Bukidnon, Davao del Sur, Cotabato, Maguindanao and Basilan.
Five cities, 24 municipalities and five barangay also declared a state of calamity.
NEDA said the role of local governments is crucial in areas reeling from El Nino.
“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,” Esguerra said.
“We would like to assure the public that the government is doing its best to address the needs of affected areas and families, considering that they are among the poorest and most vulnerable sectors,” the NEDA chief said.
The DA said it will intensify its efforts to address the negative effects of El Niño through its regular program funds and utilization of its quick response fund (QRF).
While the department has implemented program to mitigate the impact of the drought, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said it will fast-track monitoring and validation to ensure efficient delivery of services needed for the rehabilitation of affected areas.
The DA had started giving out seeds and fertilizer to farmers hit by drought. It also plans to give 332 units of pump and engine sets, nine diversion dams, 1,816 units of pump irrigation for open source and four units of drilling rig.
“The regional field units has extended the distribution of shallow tube wells (STWs) to rainfed and upland areas closer to water tributaries,” Alcala said.
The Bureau of Soils and Water Management has started cloud seeding operations in vulnerable agricultural areas and watersheds in Isabela, Bohol, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Saranggani, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.