Quick reaction teams set to check El Niño damage

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 will create “quick reaction teams” that will conduct an assessment in agricultural areas in Central Visayas that would feel the worst damage from the weak El Niño currently being felt nationwide.

Lawyer Salvador Diputado, DA 7 director, said the QRTs will partner with local agricultural officers in local government units to help monitor any suspicious pest incidents regionwide.

Diputado, though, said they have yet to receive any reports of pests critically ravaging agricultural areas in the region.

“So far, we haven’t heard any report in the region that has reached the alarming or critical level. There are indications, but every now and then, there’s also a drizzle,” Diputado said in Cebuano.

In Central Visayas, the DA 7 has received reports that some agricultural areas in Bohol have started to experience soil cracks brought by extreme heat. But Diputado said there is still nothing to worry about since soil cracks are common, especially during March and the rest of the summer months.

“If the water level in the dams starts to decline, that’s when the QR teams will meet to discuss the matter,” Diputado said.

He said the DA 7 has also prepared standby funds in case local government units (LGU) request cloud seeding operations in areas affected by the weak El Niño.

But even if they conduct cloud seeding, its success will depend on the presence of well-formed clouds and wind, Diputado said.

In the meantime, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol assured farmers that they have the funds necessary to insure their crops through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp (PCIC).

“DA is more prepared than ever before. You wouldn’t see farmers holding rallies to ask for rice,” Piñol added.

Piñol was in Bohol over the weekend to visit affected farmers.

With the El Niño phenomenon also expected to affect the health of livestock, farmers are encouraged to avail themselves of the Provincial Capitol’s livestock insurance program provided in coordination with the Philippine Insurance Corp.

Provincial Veterinarian Mary Rose Vincoy urged farmers to register and enroll their livestock as the unusually hot temperature may cause the death of several domestic animals.

Animals are more prone to experience respiratory problems, skin infections and heat stroke during summer.

“If there are (livestock) affected by El Niño, we will give support in terms of feeds, vitamins and minerals so the animals don’t get stressed too much. We will also conduct awareness seminars for farmers in the towns affected by the El Niño,” Vincoy said.

The indemnity for livestock is between P30,000 to P50,000 depending on the commodity.

To enroll in the insurance program, farmers may visit their local town agriculture office and lifestyle coordinator.

Vincoy, though, stressed that her office will have to conduct a thorough screening to find out the cause of the livestock’s death.

For now, Vincoy advised farmers to make sure their livestock are kept in a proper place given the erratic weather changes.

She also urged farmers to report immediately to their local agriculture office any sick animals to avoid complications.

The Provincial Agriculture Office has a budget of P10 million for operations and logistics for 2019.

Although they have medicines and vaccines readily available, Vincoy said their main priority is to boost the immune system of the livestock.

Last month, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration declared that a “weak El Niño” had started in different parts of the country, causing less rain and more heat in the coming months. (From HBL of SuperBalita Cebu, JKV, RTF)


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