DA also emphasized that initiatives are simpler to execute and benefit farmers more when they organize themselves into a group or cooperative. (File Photo)

The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday said it distributed around ₱379.06 million worth of aid to affected farmers in the Mimaropa region amid the El Niño phenomenon.

The department’s latest report said a large sum of the aid was coursed through the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program, granting around ₱362.56 million worth of financial assistance to 71,795 farmers in the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan.

In an interview, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa also reported the distribution of hybrid rice seeds and fertilizers to compensate for the loss of farmers.

“₱379 million na iyong naibigay na assistance sa mga farmers, kasama na rito iyong sa high-value natin na almost ₱1 million, iyong rice seeds natin is ₱8 million, and then fertilizer ₱7 million,” he said.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) also provided ₱1.24 million worth of indemnification to affected farmers.

In a report, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) also installed around 570 water augmentation pumps in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Mimaropa and Western Visayas regions; while the DA-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) continue its cloud seeding operations in Southern Cagayan and Northern Isabela.

In January, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed Executive Order (EO) No. 53 to streamline, reactivate and reconstitute the old El Niño task forces under EO No. 16 (s. 2001) and Memorandum Order No. 38 (s. 2019).

Under EO No. 53, the President instructed the task force to secure a comprehensive disaster preparedness and rehabilitation plan and ensure “systematic, holistic, and results-driven interventions” to aid the Filipinos and alleviate the devastating effects of disasters.

To date, the El Niño phenomenon has damaged 32,231 hectares of farmlands in the country, resulting in a 75,092 metric tons of volume loss in rice, corn, and high-value crop production.

“As of March 14, the agricultural loss hit ₱1.75 billion, with the highest damage reported in Mimaropa with ₱770 million,” de Mesa said.

The Western Visayas followed with ₱564 million worth of agricultural damage; Cagayan Valley with ₱180 million; Central Luzon with ₱158 million; Ilocos Region with ₱54 million; Zamboanga Peninsula with ₱13 million, Calabarzon with ₱7 million; and Soccsksargen with ₱2 million worth of agricultural loss.

In particular, the DA recorded around ₱1.13 billion worth of damage for rice, damaging 18,651 hectares, or equivalent to 1.94 percent of the total 960,864.48 hectares targeted for rice plantation.

As for the corn and high-value crops, the amount of loss is pegged at ₱317.86 million and ₱305.55 million, respectively. (PNA)