Are corn plantations partly to be blamed for flash flood?

Massive flood and destruction scar the town of Balasan, Iloilo after the onslaught of Typhoon Ursula on December 25, 2019. (Drone shots courtesy of Venturer Rover Visual Arts)

By: Francis Allan L. Angelo

Many were surprised when flash flood hit northern Iloilo towns, particularly Balasan, Batad, and Carles, while Typhoon Ursula ravaged Panay Island on Dec 25, 2019.

Even Iloilo Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office executive officer Gerry Bionat, whose family hails from northern Iloilo, was surprised with the flood surge.

In a radio interview, Bionat said most of the survivors remarked that they were unprepared for the flash flood that has claimed the lives of 11 persons in the three Iloilo towns as of Thursday afternoon.

On social media, netizens pointed to denuded mountains in northern Iloilo, primarily due to massive corn plantations.

Just how big an industry is the corn sector in the 5th district?

A Philippine Star report published in 2010 indicated that massive planting of corn started in 2005 on more or less 800 hectares (has.) of land, mostly hilly grasslands (

The most common type of corn planted in the area is biotech or genetically modified corn which have higher yield and more resistant to diseases.

The massive planting of GM corn was realized through the initiative of the Northern Iloilo Cooperative Corn Producers Association Inc. (NICPAI) and three years after, the area covered by biotech corn soared to 9,300 has.

Farmers were estimated to earn at least P40,000 annually, the PhilStar report quoted NICPAI farmer-leader Nelson Sonza as saying. Also, farm sizes vary from two to five has. per family.

NICPAI even won PLEDGE, the highest global award given by multinational Monsanto to outstanding projects in agriculture. Its success story was dubbed “From Grassland to Corn Land” and won a cash prize of $20,000.

There are also plans to expand the corn industry, as outlined during the 15th National Corn Congress held at Iloilo Convention Center in November 2019.

A PNA report quoted Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan as saying that Agriculture Secretary William Dar ordered the possible “export” of Philippine corn (

“Our marching order is to increase the yield without expanding (area of coverage) and lower the production cost,” Cayanan said in the PNA report.

Director Lorenzo M. Caranguian of the Bureau of Plant Industry said that on average, the country produces 1.86 metric tons per hectare for white corn but it has the potential to reach four metric tons.

Yellow corn, which is the prime source of commercial feeds for livestock, has an average production of 4.14 but it can reach up to 12 metric tons per hectare.

Engr. Roger V. Navarro, president of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. said based on their data, almost one million hectares of the farmland in the country are currently planted with yellow corn and around 1.25 million hectares are planted with white corn.

The 2019 third quarter statistics released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) indicated that the agriculture sector grew by 2.87 percent, with the crop sector making a significant contribution. Among the crop sector, corn contributed 23.47 percent to the growth.

Data from the Department of Agriculture indicated that in 2018, Iloilo produced 11,374.79 metric tons (MT) of white corn and 65,965.92 MT of yellow corn. In sum, Iloilo accounted for 24.8 percent (77,340.71 MT) of the total production in Western Visayas at 310838.81 MT.

It remains to be seen if massive corn planting should be partly blamed for the deadly flash flood in northern Iloilo, but this year, the DA-6 regional office taught the Sloping Corn Production in Sloping Areas (SCOPSA) technique to farmers in Iloilo province, particularly Passi City, according to another PNA report (

The PNA report quoted DA-6 regional director Remelyn Recoter as saying that “farmers need to be equipped with correct knowledge in farming in order for them to raise their yield without degrading natural resources.”

Recoter said they are implementing SCOPSA to enhance corn productivity by adopting sustainable adaptive technologies in sloping areas.

“We saw today that more than 80 percent of land used for farming is sloped and the topsoil has the tendency to erode,” the PNA report quoted Recoter as saying.