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article image‘El Niño’ May Spare Some Parts of Southern Philippines

By Antonio Figueroa     Jan 31, 2010 in Food
MANILA – While Luzon, the country’s largest island, and the Visayas would be affected by the El Niño weather phenomenon, part of Southern Philippines, namely the Davao Region, also known as Southern Mindanao, might be spared.
An early assessment conducted in Southern Mindanao, which comprises four Davao provinces and six cities, has shown that the region is experiencing copious rains.
Frisco Malabanan, project director of the government program, Ginintuang Masaganang Ani, which means “golden, productive harvest,” even assured farmers in Davao region the agricultural sector, especially its rice production, would not be affected by the El Niño.
“Out of the 49,180 hectares in the region,” he said, “90 percent of [these] were already planted.”
He, however, warned that while the region would not bear the brunt of a long drought that often goes with the phenomenon, weather predictions have pointed to the occurrence of rainy days ahead due to the northeast monsoon.
Last month, Southern Mindanao experienced almost daily rainfall, a condition the weather experts say will be comparably below normal in February.
Malabanan’s assurance, though, does not applicable to Luzon and Visayas regions.
Already, as a precaution against predicted shortfall in rice production, the Philippines, the world's biggest rice importer, has already allocated P1.6 billion (approx. US$36.5 million) to counteract the impact of the weather spell that is expected to affect 544,000 hectares.
According to agriculture department estimates, a mild El Nino occurrence could result in farm losses amounting to 10 billion, approximately US$215 million in six months, which could translate to losses in over half a million hectares of rice fields, 17,000 hectares of fishponds, close to 300,000 hectares of corn farms, and three million metric tons of vegetables.
To cushion the predicted rice supply shortfall, the national government is importing of 2.4 million metric tons of rice from Vietnam and Thailand.
This is on top of the 2.3 million metric tons ordered by the country last year, s a result of the devastating calamities inflicted by typhoons ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Peping,’ which jointly destroyed more than 1.3 million tons of paddy rice.
Als0 expected to be hit by the El Niño are sugar cane plantations which, like rice farms, are dependent for their productivity on rainfall.
To cushion the anticipated sugar shortfall in local markets, the National Food Authority has already announced the distribution to accredited dealers of around 3,000 bags of sugar to be made available to the deprived residents of Metro Manila.
As a legislative support, Sen. Loren Legarda, a vice-presidential bet in the May 2010 elections, recently filed Resolution 1540 urging the Senate to conduct inquiries into policies that would be crucial in mitigating the impact of prolonged El Niño on the country’s food security.
“Changes in temperature, rainfall and sea level,” said Legarda, who chairs the Senate committee on food and agriculture, “would be disastrous to the agricultural sector. Crop yield potential is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield in the Philippines would decline by 75%.”
She said the main thrust of the resolution is to come out with recommendations that would not only result in the adoption of food security options, but also produce alternatives that would reduce the impact of the El Niño phenomenon in rural communities.
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