El Niño hits 10,000 farmers; Alcover blasts agri chief

El Niño hits 10,000 farmers; Alcover blasts agri chief
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MORE than 10,000 farmers in Cebu City have continued to endure the effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon since February 2024, saying they had not yet received any assistance from the City Government.

Casimero Pilones, head of the Alliance of Cebu City Farmers Association, said they had been invited to executive sessions by the Cebu City Council to voice their concerns, but to date, they had not received any assistance.

Asked about the situation of farmers in Cebu City during this El Niño period, Pilones said the farmers are in a very pitiful state, as there is no water available for their crops.

“Ang mga farmers karon nagkinahanglan jud support sa Cebu City... Kung makapangita untag tubig nga magamit namo, kay luoy kaayo ang mga mag-uuma. Wala jud makaon,” Pilones told SunStar Cebu on Friday, April 5, 2024.

(Farmers today really need the support of Cebu City to find water that we can use because the farmers are in a sorry state. They have nothing to eat.)

Pilones said what farmers need now is a good amount of water supply, suggesting that the City Government could provide them with water pumps and drills so they can search for water in springs.

He said they had requested materials from the Cebu City Agriculture Department (CAD) such as water tanks, hoses, barrels and sprayers, but the department had not provided them with these materials this year.

He added that the farmers would like to request the City Government to provide them with high-quality seedlings, as low-quality seedlings would affect the quality of vegetables they harvest later, leading to lower prices.

The Alliance of Cebu City Farmers Association is composed of 72 farmer associations, with each association having at least 200 to 300 members.


Cebu City Councilor Pastor Alcover Jr., chairman of the committee on agriculture and rural development, has called for the resignation of Cebu City Agriculture Department (CAD) head Joselito Baclayon due to gross negligence of duty.

In his privilege speech last Wednesday, April 3, Alcover accused Baclayon of not having plans to address the plight of farmers who are affected by the El Niño phenomenon.

Alcover said there will be around 11,000 farmers, excluding their families, who will suffer from hunger due to the drought brought by the phenomenon.

Unfulfilled, unspent

Alcover said farmers in rural areas submitted requests for farming equipment last year, but these requests had not been fulfilled.

He added that the CAD failed to utilize the allocated budget for farmers in 2023, with a significant portion remaining unspent.

According to Alcover, the City Government allocated P85.9 million for farmers, but only P21 million was spent, with the remaining P64 million returned to the government treasury.

He added that another P7 million, included in the P19 million Bayanihan program in 2021, was also returned to the government’s treasury. Only P12 million of the allocated amount was spent for the farmers.

SunStar Cebu tried to get the side of Baclayon on the matter through text message and calls, but to no avail.

Last year

As early as March 2023, when El Niño was still just a possibility and after the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) announced a drop in water production due to the onset of summer, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama already ordered water supply secured for agriculture to ensure food security.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) subsequently declared the start of the El Niño phenomenon in the Philippines on July 4, 2023, saying it may go on until the first quarter of 2024.

El Niño increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall, which could bring dry spells and drought.

Baclayon said then that the CAD would identify water sources that could be used to sustain farming areas and expressed optimism that the City was prepared for the El Niño phenomenon because of earlier steps it had already taken to address the threat.

Three months earlier, in April 2023, as some city farmers experienced a 60 percent plunge in their yields after the heat index in Cebu reached 41 degrees Celsius, Baclayon said half of the city’s 11,000 farmers had already received drums in which to store water, and hoses to enable farmers to connect to more distant springs or rivers.

Baclayon also said farmers from Cebu City’s 28 upland barangays produce vegetables, fruit crops and livestock, among others, while Mindanao, Cebu towns and neighboring provinces are the source of the rest of the city’s food supply.

This year

As the Pagasa forecast, it indeed declared Cebu under a dry spell in the last week of February 2024, and then as undergoing drought in March 2024.

Last March 26, state meteorologist Jhomer Eclarino warned that the heat index in Cebu in the coming months could go up further to the “dangerous” 51 degree Celsius level.

On Thursday, the MCWD announced a 16 percent drop in its water production for April 3, 2024 to only at least 258,548 cubic meters of water.

The water district said its usual daily production was 310,000 cubic meters a day before the occurrence of the El Niño.


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