El Niño task force reactivated at DA

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has reactivated its El Niño task force to mitigate the impact of the expected dry spell on crops.

“When there is a calamity, whether it’s El Niño or typhoons, the biggest hit is always to agriculture,” Agriculture Deputy Spokesman Rex C. Estoperez told reporters.

Mr. Estoperez said that the task force consists of representatives from the various DA agencies and led by a steering committee of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries and assisted by a technical working group.

The government weather service, known as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), is projecting the onset of the El Niño later this year, persisting until 2024.

Citing PAGASA rainfall forecast data, the DA said at least 16 provinces in the Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, the Caraga Administrative Region, and Calabarzon, will be affected by unusually dry conditions.

In a statement, the DA said that the mitigation and adaptation plan for this year focuses on building more water-related infrastructure.

“Part of the government’s masterplan to address El Niño is to save vulnerable areas through appropriate water management, while irrecoverable areas will be rehabilitated,” the DA said.

It said that it will develop and rehabilitate water systems including irrigation canals, diversion dams, and small-scale irrigation projects before the start of the El Niño.

Earlier Wednesday, Danilo H. Ramos, who chairs Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, asked for the government’s action plan to mitigate a possible drought.

“We need effective and coordinated action from both national agencies and local government units to address the impending water shortage to be aggravated by the onset of El Niño. Agriculture and farming will be most affected by possible dry spells and drought,” he said.

The DA’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Unit said the first storm of the season, a cyclone named Amang, may affect about 632,706 hectares of standing crops — 602,728 hectares planted to rice and 29,978 to corn.

The DA has advised farmers to consider an early harvest ahead of the weather disturbance. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera