CALAMBA CITY, Laguna — The Department of Agriculture in Region IV-A has initiated proactive measures to mitigate the looming El Niño phenomenon or dry spell's impact on the region's agricultural productivity.
The DA's action plan, as of May 2023, encompasses a range of preparatory activities, including strategic allocation of seed reserves, diversification of crops, and efficient water management.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Administration (Pagasa), El Niño is characterized by exceptionally elevated sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. Anticipating below-average rainfall, it is likely to bring about dry spells and droughts in multiple areas of the country.
The DA has identified a minimum of 19 vulnerable areas in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal, with 10 posing a significant risk and nine falling under moderate risk. Pagasa predicts that Quezon province is less prone to El Niño's effects, as it is expected to receive a substantial 56% rainfall at the onset of the dry spell.
To fortify the regional El Niño action plan, the DA has forged a vital collaboration with the National Irrigation Administration IV-A.
Redeliza Gruezo, DA's chief of field operations for Calabarzon, underscored the criticality of the DA-NIA partnership, which also aims to support the national government's Masagana rice program.
"We anticipate heightened coordination with NIA to minimize the repercussions of El Niño on our agricultural yields," she added.
NIA personnel have commenced thorough inspections of irrigation sites to ensure optimal utilization of water resources during periods of scant rainfall.
Wilma Granados, from the NIA Cavite-Batangas Irrigation Management Office, highlighted the advocacy of the alternate wetting and drying (AWD) method among farmers. AWD involves the application of water a few days after the ponded water has been exhausted.
"AWD greatly contributes to water management knowledge, equipping us to be better prepared for such weather conditions (like El Niño) and eventually establishing it as a customary irrigation practice in our rice fields," Granados stated.
Meanwhile, the DA Calabarzon has already provided agricultural implements, including seeds, planting materials, fertilizers, and soil ameliorants, to 82,396 beneficiaries, covering a vast total land area of 208,105 hectares.
The DA's Disaster and Climate Information Office reported the construction of canal lining, irrigation systems, and diversion dams for rice crops, benefiting a total of 349 hectares in the region.
During a media briefing on June 26, Pagasa projected that the dry period would commence in October, aligning favorably with the palay harvest season but potentially resulting in limited replenishment of dams.
While a marginal decrease in production and reduced imports due to escalating international prices are plausible, the overall supply is expected to remain stable, albeit with a possible decline in end-year stocks, according to Pagasa.