A provincial legislator is seeking speedy action, particularly on submitting necessary documents from concerned offices of the provincial government for the immediate declaration of a state of calamity to address the effects of El Niño in Palawan.

Board Member Ariston Arzaga said damages caused by the dry spell had reached almost ₱1 billion all over the province, with four towns declaring a state of calamity in their respective localities: Balabac, Brooke’s Point, San Vicente, and El Nido.

After Board Member Ryan Maminta called on the Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to conduct a Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (RDANA), Arzaga called for the province-wide declaration.

Arzaga said the Office of Provincial Agriculture already has an initial evaluation based on reports submitted by the Municipal Agriculture Offices of different municipalities through the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Information System (DRRM IS).

He said 10 municipalities have already submitted their reports to the OPA-Araceli, Coron, Quezon, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, San Vicente, Busuanga, Bataraza, Sofronio Española, and Roxas.

Based on the initial report, Arzaga said around 9,537 hectares of agricultural land have been affected by the drought, 8,756 of which are rice farms, corn and cassava plantations, vegetables, and high-value crops.

Furthermore, he said a total of 8,942 farmers are already suffering from the effects of El Niño, 6,316 of whom are rice farmers.

“So ang total value ng damage sa rice alone ay P934,479,829. Sa kabuuan ay ₱955,929,918.59, so almost ₱1 billion,” Arzaga said in an interview with the media.

“This data will be further assessed by the PDRRMC for consideration of declaring a state of calamity. (Pero) kung sa akin lang, may state of calamity (o wala), kinakailangan na nating magbigay ng support sa ating affected farmers,” he added.

He noted that as early as January this year, the PDRRMC had already convened and discussed contingency measures. He said the council has already started the validation for them to be able to craft programs.

“Kaya para sa akin kailangan nang mag-declare ng state of calamity para magamit yung contingency fund paar makatulong sa farmers. Ang kailangan na lang ay recommendation ng PDRRMC for us to consider dito sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” he explained.

Provincial Agriculturist Dr. Romeo Cabuncal, meanwhile, said in a separate interview that they have already recommended several actions for the provincial government to take even before the municipalities declared a state of calamity.

“Ito ay napag-usapan doon sa PDRRMRC. Kabilang dito ang pagbibigay ng assistance sa ating mga magsasaka at mga mangingisda. Kasi in the sector of fisheries, ang affected dito ay yung seaweed farmers,” Cabuncal said.

“Ang sinasabi natin so far, ang plano ay pagbibigay ng abono, vegetable seeds, at kaukulang technical support sa pagre-rehab ng small water impounding project, kasi very critical ito sa pagpapaumpisa ulit ng kanilang pagtatanim,” he added.