19 provinces brace for drought
Some 19 provinces may be hit hard by drought this year as the El Niño weather phenomenon bites, the state weather bureau said.
According to Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa’s) Feb. 17 advisory, the weather pattern marked by lower than average rainfall has begun affecting various parts of the country.
Its forecast showed 20 provinces were likely to feel warmer weather over the next few months, 19 of which are expected to experience drought while one may be hit by a dry spell.
Pagasa defines a dry spell as at least three consecutive months of 21 to 60 percent reduction in rainfall, while drought is characterized by either reduced chance of rainfall for three consecutive months or a dry spell that lasts for five consecutive months.
In Luzon, drought may hit Metro Manila, Pangasinan, Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Masbate, while Rizal was expected to experience dry spell.
Antique, Iloilo, Bataan, and Northern and Western Samar in Visayas were also seen to experience drought.
In Mindanao, only Dinagat Islands was expected to be hit by drought.
On his Facebook page, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol assured farmers who may be devastated by the climate pattern that the Department of Agriculture (DA) has prepared for the latter’s adverse effects.
He added that an emergency rice supply as well as loan programs and insurance payments had been formulated for farmers, especially those who were not able to receive earlier interventions like water pumps.
The El Niño weather phenomenon will delay the onset of the rainy season and affect the industry’s planting calendar as it turns farms into arid land.
“The immediate release of crop insurance and loan grants will be undertaken by the DA to support farmers … Crop insurance will cover up to 100 percent of the damage while loans will grant up to P25,000 in a no-interest, no-collateral loan payable in three years,” Piñol said.
To recall, the country was hit by one of the most severe El Niño episodes late 2015 until the first semester of 2016, damaging billions of pesos worth of crops and affecting around 400,000 farmers.
The drought was so severe that thousands of farmers, triggered by severe hunger, protested to demand the immediate release of the government’s calamity fund.
It led to a bloody dispersal in North Cotabato known as the Kidapawan massacre.
Piñol, a former governor of Cotabato, said in an earlier post that the government started preparing for the worst effects of El Niño last year, adding that “there will be no repeat of the massacre under this administration.”
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