Govt earmarks P1.3-B El Niño fund

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THE government is setting aside at least P1.3 billion for the construction of “small-scale” irrigation facilities as the country braces for El Niño.

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Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma on Monday said these irrigation projects will benefit “small and poor farmers,” who often suffer the most from climate change-related losses.

”As part of long-term measures, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has increased its investments [in]the establishment of small water impounding facilities, repair, rehabilitation and construction of new irrigation systems as well as communal irrigation systems administered by the National Irrigation Administration to help guarantee agricultural water even during the summer season,” Coloma told reporters.

According to him, the DA is also working with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to “intensify cloud-seeding operations to induce rain in major watersheds and drought-affected farming communities.”

He said the DA and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management have completed 15 trips across the rain-deprived municipalities of Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan and Magat watershed areas in Isabela province.

”These cloud-seeding operations have prevented damage [to]some 4,155 hectares of corn farms across the province, of which 3,490 hectares are in reproductive stage and 665 hectares in vegetative stage,” Coloma added.

Aside from cloud-seeding, he said, the DA has prepared “other interventions” such as provision of shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers in areas that will be affected by the dry spell.

”The government is taking concerted action to ensure food security for our citizens and to mitigate possible effects of the projected onset of the El Niño weather phenomenon,” Coloma added.

The DOST said the country will start to feel the effects of the El Nino spell in June. The dry spell may last until the first quarter of 2015.

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