Oriental Mindoro town’s state of calamity shows El Niño’s impact

Oriental Mindoro town’s state of calamity shows El Niño’s impact

By: - Correspondent / @mvirolaINQ
/ 05:55 AM March 02, 2024

PARCHEDLAND Severe and prolonged drought, as seen in this photo taken on Wednesday, is hurting farmers in the southernmost town of Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro province, prompting the municipal council to place the agricultural town under a state of calamity. —PHOTO COURTESY OF BULALACAO INFORMATIONOFFICE el niño

PARCHEDLAND Severe and prolonged drought, as seen in this photo taken on Wednesday, is hurting farmers in the southernmost town of Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro province, prompting the municipal council to place the agricultural town under a state of calamity. —PHOTO COURTESY OF BULALACAO INFORMATION OFFICE

CITY OF CALAPAN — Most of the lands planted for rice and onion in the coastal town of Bulalacao on the southern tip of Oriental Mindoro province have been damaged by a relentless drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon, prompting local officials to declare their municipality under a state of calamity early this week.

Bulalacao, a third-class agricultural town of more than 69,000 people, is the first municipality in the country to declare a state of calamity due to El Niño, local agriculturist Rommel de Guzman said on Friday.


De Guzman told the Inquirer that 325 hectares of onion and 539 ha of rice had been damaged by the drought, with losses amounting to about P87 million.


Municipal data show that onion is grown in at least 500 ha of land by 575 farmers, while 545 farmers cultivate rice in 539 ha. At least 20.2 ha are for other agricultural products involving 28 farmers.

READ: El Niño feared stifling PH agri output in 2024 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said that as of Feb. 25, the farm sector incurred P357.4 million in losses affecting 7,668 farmers in the regions of Ilocos, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Production losses have amounted to about 11,480 metric tons for palay, 2,897 MT for corn, and 225 MT for high-value crops in 6,523 ha in the affected regions.

Emergency funding

The Bulalacao municipal council’s resolution that declared a calamity on Tuesday said: “For the past several months, the municipality has been significantly affected by the impact of severe drought due to the absence of rainfall.”

This resulted in dwindling water supply, causing a major problem for farm irrigation, leading to crop failures and decreased agricultural production, the resolution added.


A declaration of a state of calamity would allow local governments to tap emergency funds to assist constituents in need of aid.

According to the Bulalacao Information Office (BIO), instead of the onset of rains, the town has been seared by a long dry spell which has been drying up rivers, the primary sources of water for the municipality, leaving parched farmlands.

The drought has already affected the quality and quantity of palay and onion production, the BIO said in an email to the Inquirer on Thursday.

The weather bureau on Thursday reported that the “mature El Niño is expected to continue and show signs of weakening” but will likely persist until May and even up to June.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Administration (Pagasa) also said there was a 45 percent to 50 percent chance that most parts of the country would experience below-average rainfall.

Pagasa, however, said that a strong El Niño does not always result in significant impacts, and the expected effects may not be felt throughout the country.

Worst by April

The DA predicts that El Niño will have the greatest impact on the country in April, with 80 provinces experiencing “drought,” “dry spell,” or “dry condition.”

Bulalacao Mayor Ernilo Villas and the municipal agriculture office have been coordinating with the DA for the distribution of assistance to affected farmers.

Agriculture Undersecretaries Jerome Oliveros and Arnel de Mesa visited Bulalacao on Tuesday to meet with 50 heads of farmers’ groups.

Oliveros said the DA would give solar-powered irrigation systems worth P11 million to Bulalacao’s Barangay Cambunang and Maujao, and P7 million worth to Barangay Nasucob. The town itself will get cold storage for onions worth P40 million, he said.

Loan for farmers

The National Irrigation Agency said it would lend its backhoe to those wanting to dig for water.

According to the DA, each farmer could also borrow up to P25,000 under its “Sure Aid Loan” program and claim a maximum of P20,000, if his farm was insured, from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.

Seedlings, fertilizers, and even livestock would be given to affected farmers by the DA under its Quick Response After Recovery Program.

At least 977 registered farmers in Bulalacao would also get financial assistance worth P5,000 and P3,000 in fuel assistance.

‘Somewhat minimal’

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would give food packs to affected farmers, and the Department of Labor and Employment would provide emergency employment under its community-based assistance package.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel said the overall effect of El Niño across the country had been “somewhat minimal,” yet the DA put in place certain measures like the solar-powered irrigation systems.

“We’ll maximize our budget to build those systems in the most affected areas,” Laurel said on Thursday.

He said that in addition to crop insurance payments, the DA could also provide alternative crops that do not require much water.

It started cloud seeding operations over Cagayan Valley early this week.

It will also distribute vegetable seeds in Western Visayas and Ilocos regions and planting materials for high-value crops that require less water in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

“Promotion of drought-resistant crops and pest-control efforts are also under way to assist farmers in areas suffering from low rainfall levels,” it said.

Cash for work

The DSWD on Thursday said it expected its cash-for-work beneficiaries under its climate resiliency projects to be able to build around 2,940 small farm reservoirs this year. These would enable the country’s poorest and most vulnerable communities to withstand the effects of the dry spell.

Under Project Local Adaptation to Water Access (Lawa), which is complemented by another project, Breaking Insufficiency through Nutritious Harvest for the Impoverished (Binhi), more than 130,000 beneficiaries, mostly fishers, farmers, and indigenous people, will be tapped by the DSWD for 10 days to 25 days to work on the water retention systems.

They will be paid 100 percent of the prevailing regional minimum daily wage rates, according to Maria Isabel Lanada, the DSWD’s special assistant to the secretary for special projects.

Around 290 small-scale water harvesting facilities have been built nationwide under the program, Lanada reported.

Water diversion

The program was introduced in three provinces last year—Ifugao in Luzon, Antique in Visayas, and Davao de Oro in Mindanao. With a 2024 budget of P1.41 billion, the DSWD is set to fully implement the program this year in 294 municipalities and cities in 58 provinces.

The small farm reservoirs, man-made lakes, or existing water harvesting facilities will be used to collect water diverted from natural sources, such as springs, or rainwater.

Communities may also create small-scale hydroponics or aquaponics, where tilapia or “bangus” (milkfish) may be raised to help the communities gain self-sufficiency during climate emergencies and curb “economic vulnerabilities,” Lanada said.

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For food security, communal “vertical and horizontal” gardening will be carried out. These include school-based or community-based vegetable gardening, “diversified integrated farming, vermicomposting, and plantain of fruit-bearing trees and mangroves. —WITH REPORTS FROM JORDEENE LAGARE, KATHLEEN DE VILLA, AND INQUIRER RESEARCH INQ

TAGS: drought, El Niño, Oriental Mindoro

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