THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is realigning P1.2 billion from its regular budget this year to finance the El Niño mitigation measures.

Of the amount, DA will carry out P570 million worth of intervention measures for the palay sector.

Also, under this year’s El Niño Mitigation Program, DA will set aside P613.7 million to carry out intervention measures for the corn subsector; P411 million for high-value commercial crops and P117.4 million for fisheries.

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Among the mitigation measures is rationalizing the release of irrigation water to ease the impact of the El Niño dry spell on the agriculture and fisheries sector.

“Water supply remains adequate for our farms, and we are just resorting to conservation in the face of a Pagasa-forecasted prolonged dry spell this year. So what we will do is to provide our farmers with just enough water that they need and schedule its release so that we wouldn’t waste water in irrigating their croplands,” said DA Undersecretary Bernardo Fondevilla in a statement.

Other mitigation measures include cloud seeding operations over watershed areas; provision of pumps, engine sets, fish cages, vegetable seeds; building small-scale irrigation facilities; and alternative livelihood assistance.

Longer dry spell

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) forecast that while the latest onslaught of El Niño appears to be a mild or moderate one, it could be longer than usual and could possibly last until July instead of May or June.

El Niño refers to the unusual warming of sea surface temperatures along the equatorial Pacific that is usually characterized by below-average rainfall, which leads to a dry spell.

Based on the studies conducted by DA, Fondevilla said a total of 453,204 hectares of land planted to palay, 227,843 hectares of corn areas and 14,160 hectares in the fisheries sector are threatened under a prolonged El Niño attack.

Total production losses under a mild El Niño scenario could reach P8.09 billion, and P20.46 billion under a severe dry spell, he added.

Vulnerable

The El Niño task force, which will implement the mitigation program, has identified 23 “highly vulnerable” areas and 24 “moderately vulnerable” areas in the country.

Among the areas in the Central Visayas identified as “moderately vulnerable” are the provinces of Bohol and some parts of Negros Oriental.

DA 7 said 3,788 hectares of rice lands will be affected, and most of these will be in Bohol.

In terms of corn production, El Niño is expected to reduce the area planted to corn by 2,671 hectares. Most of these affected corn areas are in the provinces of Bohol and Negros Oriental.

For the HVCC sector, a total of 426 hectares of areas planted to vegetables and other commercial crops throughout the region are considered vulnerable or threatened areas, which if affected would result in estimated production losses of 959 MT.

This includes an estimated 240 hectares of prime mango production areas and 20 hectares planted to ubi kinampay in Bohol.

DA 7 said they have lined up mitigating measures to counter the ill effects of El Niño on the different sectors.