A major clean-up operation is under way after Typhoon Santi pounded the archipelago’s north, leaving 13 dead, as authorities issued another storm warning.
The military, along with civilian relief workers, struggled to clear roads of toppled trees and power pylons as they rushed to restore vital lifelines wrecked by Saturday’s storm.
“The general situation is getting better, but it would take some time to clear the roads of fallen trees and [electrical]posts,” Civil Defense Office spokesman Reynaldo Balido said.
He added that power and telecommunication facilities had been restored in affected areas although some cities and towns in Luzon were without electricity.
Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Sunday said that some agricultural areas remained inundated although the waters were subsiding.
According to Balido, many of the more than 43,000 people displaced by the storm had also begun returning home as the government lifted all storm warnings.
Typhoon Santi tore into the country’s northeast coast early Saturday and cut a westward path through the farming regions of Luzon, particularly Tarlac, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija, indicating that the rice supply is now in serious danger, which could possibly lead to food crisis.
Sen. Loren Legarda last week said that a strong typhoon bringing excessive rains could wipe out entire harvests.
Legarda, a known advocate of sustainable agricultural development, issued the warning upon learning about “food security issues” articulated by National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
Balisacan had forecasted in his memorandum that harvests from Central Luzon would account significantly for the country’s fourth quarter harvests, making up for its third quarter’s dismal performance.
However, he noted that even if rice production rebounds in the fourth quarter, deficits are expected to be incurred from as low as 0.5-million metric tons (MT) to as high as 1.4-million MT.
The NEDA secretary likewise recommended the immediate importation of 500,000 MT to make up for the production deficit.
But despite Legarda’s warning and the memorandum, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has insisted that the country has sufficient buffer stock that could last until the harvest season.
“Because of good weather condition, the country can produce 13.03 million MT of milled rice, exceeding the domestic demand of 11.23 million MT,” DA Secretary Proceso Alcala noted.
However, initial reports show that 15,000 hectares of rice fields in Nueva Ecija were damaged during the typhoon onslaught. On the other hand, 10,000 hectares of ricelands in Bulacan were totally damaged, while rice fields in towns along the stretch of McArthur Highway in Tarlac were also destroyed, according to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.