DA Sec Yap visits Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Norte Gov. Michael Keon has recommended the declaration of the province under a state of calamity due to the lingering effect of the dry spell.
Keon sought the declaration so that the provincial government could fully use its resources in mitigating the impact of the dry spell in the agriculture sector.
Keon’s declaration coincided with Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap’s visit on August 2 to Ilocos Norte to personally see the extent of damage caused by the drought from the ground.
Yap said Ilocos Norte is one of the worst hit provinces in Northern Luzon along with Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan compared to Central Luzon.
“We will immediately release the funds (for Ilocos Norte) as soon as we have determined the extent of damage that needs support,” he said after the briefing that the provincial agriculture office prepared.
Yap asked Keon to prepare the provincial government’s counterpart fund to mitigate the effects of drought like focusing on the planting of more high-value crops and vegetables.
He said he would provide cloud-seeding operations in farmlands where irrigation is needed most.
“We may have to realign the funds for farm-to-market roads and channel them to the irrigation sector because that’s where funds are needed most,” he said.
Yap promised Keon that he will augment the province’s P30 million budget devoted to the provincial agriculture so that they could identify alternative crops that are drought-resistant.
Yap also met with members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on agriculture led by Chairman Mariano “Nonong” Marcos, and members of the League of Municipal Mayors, led by Joseph de Lara of Solsona, to assess the extent of the impact the drought has had on agriculture.
Yap called for a cooperative effort to mitigate the effects of the drought: calling on local officials, mayors and the provincial government to provide water pumps while promising that the government will assist in providing fuel for the operation of those pumps as well as initiate cloud seeding operations over the province. Part of the assistance from the Department would include the provision of seeds for alternative non-water intensive crops to affected farmers.
As a pro-active measure, the governor has certified as urgent, the passage of the bill declaring the Province of Ilocos Norte under a state of calamity due to the prolonged dry spell. This is so that the province may avail of the calamity fund to immediately address the issue. For his part Sec. Yap made a commitment to assist the province in the effort.
The effect of the drought is reflected in the Aug 1 PAO report which states that of the total acreage devoted to rice planting, only 50.22 % has been planted as compared to an estimated 80% in normal years.
Norma Lagmay, provincial agriculturist, reported that the province’s sufficiency level in rice, corn, onion and garlic would drop significantly due to prolonged drought.
Before the dry spell hit, Ilocos Norte has been enjoying high sufficiency level in the following crops: rice (280%), corn (1,642%), garlic (2,734%) and onion (11,036%).
Lagmay said the province’s irrigation systems would need more than P318 million in rehabilitation funds so that the facilities could reach their highest level of efficiency.
She added most dams in the province are performing below their normal efficiency after being damaged by successive typhoons since 2006.
Stephen T. Barreiro and Cristina Arzadon