The Department of Agriculture is allotting an initial P331 million to help Central Luzon farmers, fisherfolk and their respective communities recover from crop and fishery losses due to typhoons ‘Pedring’ and ‘Quiel.’
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala made the commitment during a two-day visit in October to Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan, where the bulk of the government assistance was allotted to providing affected farmers with subsidized rice seeds amounting to a total of P209 million.
Alcala disclosed that farmers whose rice paddies were badly damaged will receive free certified seeds worth P1,200 per hectare, while P600 worth of seeds will be given to farmers with partially damaged areas. Farmers who intend to plant hybrid rice varieties may get an additional P500 seed subsidy per hectare.
In a report to Secretary Alcala, DA Region 3 Director Andrew Villacorta said typhoons ‘Pedring’ and ‘Quiel’ affected a total of 281,754 hectares of palay in Central Luzon, of which 25% or 70,844 hectares were totally damaged. Estimated palay loss amounted to 530,000 metric tons (MT) valued at P8.6 billion.
In terms of total affected area, Villacorta said Nueva Ecija experienced the worst hit with 145,950 hectares (has) damaged, followed by Tarlac with 48,510 has, Bulacan with 34,970 has affected and Pampanga with 31,130 hectares. The other Central Luzon provinces of Bataan, Aurora and Zambales had a combined affected area of 21,180 has, of which 1,800 has or 9.5% was totally-damaged.
Correspondingly, Nueva Ecija will get the biggest seed assistance at P112M according to Villacorta. Tarlac will receive P35M worth of seeds, followed by Bulacan and Pampanga, with P33M and P29M, respectively.
Secretary Alcala also granted more than P20 million worth of farm equipment and implements to farmers and their respective municipal governments, consisting initially of 35 affected towns in Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan. These include combine harvesters, mechanical and solar dryers, hand tractors with trailers, solar dryers, and draft carabaos with implements.
The DA through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) will also repair damaged irrigation canals and dikes initially in Bulacan (worth P52M), Pampanga (P26.2 M) and Tarlac (P3.5M), amounting to P81.7 M.
Secretary Alcala has instructed NIA Administrator Antonio Nangel to immediately undertake repair and rehabilitation works to resume irrigation service in time for the 2011-12 dry season crop.
The DA through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is also providing an initial package of assistance worth P11.8M, consisting of 10 million tilapia fingerlings worth P4.5M, 18 million bangus fry (worth P4M), 500 gill nets (P1M), and 300,000 mangrove propagules (P2.3M).
BFAR Region 3 director Remedios Ongtangco said the assistance is aimed at enabling affected Central Luzon municipal fishermen and fishpond owners recover and start anew.
Ongtangco said about 15,480 hectares of fishponds were damaged, incurring a combined loss of 41,000 metric tons of bangus (milkfish), tilapia and tiger prawns (sugpo), valued at P1 billion.
Finally, the DA through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) also distributed an initial P8.7-M worth of indemnity checks to farmers and fisherfolk who insured their respective palay and corn crops, and bangus or tilapia stocks.
Secretary Alcala and PCIC president Jovy Bernabe distributed the crop insurance payments to farmers during the respective forums in Pampanga and Bulacan.
“Alam po namin na hindi sasapat ang tulong na aming ibinibigay, ngunit ito’y isa lamang sa mga paraan ng Pamahalaang Aquino upang ang mga magsasaka at mangingisda ay makabangon muli, (We are aware that there is more we can do for our countrymen, and this is initiative is only one part of the Aquino administration’s many efforts to help our farmers and fishermen recover from the typhoons),” said Secretary Alcala during a series of town hall meetings with local officials, farmers, fisherfolk, livestock raisers and mediapersons in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan.
He said he was personally instructed by President Aquino to visit typhoon-affected provinces in Luzon and consult with farmers, fishers and local officials to find out their needs and extend the national government’s initial support.
During the consultations, local officials were one in saying that long-term solutions should be undertaken to prevent massive flooding due to silted waterways and eroded watersheds.
He said such efforts should be undertaken jointly by the DA and other concerned agencies — like the departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Agrarian Reform (DAR), and Public Works and Highways (DPWH) — in partnership with respective provincial, city and municipal governments.
He also encouraged provincial governments to counterpart with the DA to implement more infrastructure projects.
He commended the Tarlac provincial government through Governor Victor Yap, who committed to allot P200 million to purchase backhoes and heavy equipment to dredge waterways and irrigation canals.
In Pampanga, Secretary Alcala committed to help the provincial government under Gov. Lilia Pineda to craft a provincial medium-term (2012-2016) agriculture roadmap or master development plan.
In Bulacan, Secretary Alcala assured Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado that the DA and NIA will also help farmers repair and rebuild rice paddies, particularly in Barangay Calizon, Calumpit, where rice farms remain submerged in floodwaters.
He said he will request Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman to include the farm workers under the DSWD’s cash-for-work program, similar to the rice paddy repair work being done in Catubig, Northern Samar.