The Department of Agriculture Eastern Visayas regional office in Tacloban City. (File photo)
TACLOBAN CITY -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) 8 (Eastern Visayas) has drafted an action plan as a weak El Niño phenomenon threatens the region’s farms this year.
Although the dry season’s impact is only minimal in the region, which faces the Pacific Ocean, the department has to prepare in case the situation gets worse, DA-8 information officer Francis Rosaroso said.
“We have activated our disaster task force in the regional and provincial levels to monitor the situation in provinces, report damages, and recommend response activities,” Rosaroso told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Friday.
Since February, the department has been conducting validation of standing crops and stages of growth, sourcing of available maps on areas with the water source, information drive, and inventory of irrigation pumps distributed.
Under its 2019 budget, the DA will procure PHP30.23-million worth of hybrid rice seeds for recovery roll-over scheme for high-yielding provinces. The strategy seeks to maximize rice production in areas less vulnerable to drought.
“Historically, the most affected areas in the region are Northern Samar and Eastern Samar, but last week, these areas still experienced rains,” Rosaroso said.
Eastern Visayas has been experiencing fewer rains this year as a weak El Niño hit the predominantly agricultural region, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
For January, the region received 178.2 mm. of rains, below the average 323.9 mm. for the month. Last month, the region only got 50.3 mm. of rains, lower than the average 238.4 mm. for February.
El Niño refers to above-average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean and is associated with below normal rainfall.
The region’s location has a consequential effect on its unique climatic condition, the DA said. It receives heavy rainfall throughout the year and is sometimes visited by typhoons.
Rain-fed rice areas are seen as the most vulnerable to the below normal rainfall this year. Out of the region’s 723,048 hectares of agricultural land, 22 percent is devoted to rice cultivation or 157,632 hectares. About 75 percent of these rice areas are rain-fed. (PNA)