Numerous packages of assistance for  the agriculture sector are available in the province of Iloilo in response to the impact of the El Niño phenomenon.

Speaking at the recent meeting of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), Provincial Agriculturist Ildefonso Toledo reported that the provincial government has earmarked a budget of P92.7 million for interventions and programs needed to support the industry especially during calamities.

These included hybrid rice production, inbred rice seed production, irrigation, and balance fertilization support, buffer stocking of agricultural supplies, seed production machinery and infra support, and Jalaur premium rice production project.

The provision of an insurance premium subsidy dubbed as SIGURADO or Sustainable Insurance from the Government for Upscaling and Revitalizing the Agri-Fishery Development and Opportunities was also highlighted from the 2023 funding amounting to P15 million. This allocation aims to augment additional insurance coverage for farmers and fisherfolk in the province.

Toledo likewise mentioned the Climate Field School which was established to integrate weather and climate information on disaster management, agricultural and aquaculture planning to help the farmers and fisherfolk in their decision-making and address the food security program of the provincial government.

Meanwhile, based on the data of Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), El Niño increases the chances of below-normal rainfall conditions, which could bring negative impacts such as dry spells and droughts in some areas of the country that will likely be manifested during the last quarter up to the first quarter of the year.

Pagasa weather specialist Ferdinand Rubin said that dry spell continues to persist in Iloilo province and some parts of Western Visayas.

Dry spell is defined as three consecutive months of below normal rainfall condition, which is 21-60% reduction from the average rainfall.

Near normal rainfall conditions are forecasted in June and July except in the provinces of Antique, Guimaras, and Iloilo.

According to the Provincial Agriculture Office, dry spell and drought limit the rainfed areas to plant rice and could significantly affect major crops, livestock, poultry, and fisheries.

A rice blast disease can be active during droughts and may affect crop production. Affected areas likewise have difficulty to follow the fertilization and pest control measures that are dependent on water supply.

Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr earlier said that measures against El Niño are embedded in the programs of the provincial agriculture and fisheries extension system.

“It is composed of strategies and solutions. For the strategy, we focused on the rice hybrid rice program in the irrigated areas so that our high yield variety will be maximized,” Defensor said in a press conference.AAL/LMLE/PIA Iloilo