THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has started cloud-seeding in the Cordillera region in Northern Luzon as a government effort to save the farmers' livestocks and crops affected by the drought since January.

DA Regional Executive Director Cesar Rodriguez said some P2.5 million was initially released since last week for the cloud seeding operations.

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Rodriguez also vowed to deal with the effects of the "El Niño" phenomenon to save the remaining livestocks in the area which are estimated to be some 399,736 cows and carabaos; 1.3 million heads of chickens and ducks and some 428 metric tons of inland fish which are mostly tilapia and carp.

The first cloud seeding operation was successful and resulted brief rainshowers within the Kalinga province area.

The further operations were halted Monday to give way for the visit of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her aerial inspection of the P5.1 billion total rehabilitation project of major highways in the region.

Rodriguez is still optimistic of the good crop production in the region especially in the western part, where water from the Chico river and Abra river flow to provide irrigation water.

Ifugao province is worst affected by the prolonged drought. The DA regional director confirmed the earlier reports of deaths of cows and carabaos in the area not only to heat stroke but usual ailments during summer.

"The government exhausts all possible remedies to keep our agriculture industry afloat as this is our role for the sustained economic growth of northern Luzon," he assured. (Aure Glacgac/PNA)