DA braces for El Niño  

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
DA braces for El Niño  
In an interview, Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary and deputy spokesman Rex Estoperez said they have set guidelines to cushion the impact of an extremely dry weather condition on agriculture.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The government is bracing for El Niño – a weather phenomenon that could lead to a dry spell – in response to a warning from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) that the country may experience below normal rainfall in the coming months, a ranking agriculture official said yesterday.

In an interview, Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary and deputy spokesman Rex Estoperez said they have set guidelines to cushion the impact of an extremely dry weather condition on agriculture.

“Whether it is La Niña or El Niño, it is always the agriculture sector which is affected. We have existing guidelines on how to prevent the huge impact of El Niño,” Estoperez said.

PAGASA earlier announced that with the end of the La Niña that has brought heavy rains, El Niño is likely to follow.

“Even before the announcement (of El Niño), the DA has programs available but we are waiting for the official advisory from PAGASA,” he said.

“Our measures include a change of calendar in planting; second, the water management,” he added.

The DA official said cloud seeding would always be the last option in the event of a dry spell “since it’s very expensive.”

According to Estoperez, the DA will coordinate with PAGASA and other concerned agencies in the preparation for the El Niño.

He said the role of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is crucial to managing water supply for irrigation.

“NIA has a big role here in terms of water management. Just like the potable water in our homes, there should be no leakages in terms of water for irrigation in our farms,” Estoperez added.

The United States Geological Survey said El Niño refers to the warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

It said El Niño recurs from two years to a decade and can disrupt normal weather patterns globally.

The DA said Mindanao had seen the worst El Niño in the country, with 17,000 hectares of farmlands and more than 20,000 farmers affected in 2016.

Meanwhile, President Marcos said the DA has to hurdle structural challenges and adopt new technology in its operations to enhance farm production in the Philippines.

Marcos, also the agriculture secretary, admitted that the department has been busy carrying out emergency measures designed to lower commodity prices.

“So are there any major challenges? Yes, structural. We have to convert the Department of Agriculture into a high-tech operation because that’s the only way to increase production. So we have to bring the technology,” the President told reporters in Pili, Camarines Sur last Thursday.

“We will learn the best new techniques and strategies in farming and we will pass them on to farmers,” he added.

Marcos cited the need to consolidate the assets of farmers, saying the area where farming and harvesting takes place should be large to boost productivity and lower production costs.

“What we are doing is we have coordination with the CDA (Cooperative Development Authority) to strengthen cooperatives so we can bring the policies to farmers faster,” the Chief Executive said.

“Now the consolidation is the big first step. We won’t achieve what we want to achieve if we do not consolidate the assets of our farmers,” he said.

Consolidation, Marcos added, is also needed to contain swine flu and address biosecurity concerns.

“We are strengthening the production side... If production increases, the production cost would go down, the prices of goods would go down,” he said. – Alexis Romero

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