El Niño ravages Western Visayas agriculture, losses top P770M

Aerial view of central Iloilo show the wide swathes of brown, dried rice fields indicating the effect of the prolonged dry spell. (Francis Allan Angelo photo)

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The El Niño weather phenomenon continues to inflict severe damage on Western Visayas’ agriculture, with losses now soaring to P770.59 million.

The Office of Civil Defense-Region 6 (OCD-6) reported on April 1 that the adverse conditions have affected 20,610 farmers across five provinces.

Iloilo bears the brunt of the impact, suffering P519.2 million in damages, which translates to a loss of 23,047.50 metric tons of rice, corn, and other high-value crops, straining the livelihoods of 10,116 farmers across 26 towns.

Following Iloilo in the extent of damage are Antique with P130.70 million, Negros Occidental with P78.45 million, Aklan at P30.19 million, and Guimaras with P12.051 million in losses.

The OCD-6 also notes that the crisis has affected 42,887 individuals, with Negros Occidental, Antique, Iloilo, and Capiz facing varying degrees of distress.

Sibalom, Antique, has been the first to declare a state of calamity through Resolution No. 021-2024, reflecting the urgent need for responsive measures. The declaration aligns with recommendations from the Municipal Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council due to “widespread destruction” to agriculture.

Official figures from Sibalom’s Municipal Agriculture Office initially reported P35.6 million in losses for rice and corn. This number has since increased, as per the OCD-6’s latest reports, highlighting even greater devastation.

According to Sibalom municipal information officer Roger Servidad, the community is also grappling with heat-related fires, exacerbating the local crisis.

The town’s quick response fund, amounting to P5 million, is being allocated to prioritize assistance for the affected barangays. Additionally, there are requests for water augmentation, particularly in elevated areas, to alleviate shortages for essential daily activities.

“Affected barangays which are located in higher places have requested the [local government] to augment their water supply for bathing, washing dishes, and gardening,” Servidad told Daily Guardian in a phone interview.

An unnamed source from the OCD-6 revealed that Sibalom’s declaration is pending validation against the NDRRMC’s set thresholds for state of calamity proclamations.

In the meantime, the town of Anini-y is on the cusp of declaring its own state of calamity, reflecting a region-wide acknowledgment of the disaster’s magnitude and the pressing need for intervention.

The Antique Provincial DRRM Office is closely monitoring the situation as multiple towns report their conditions, though so far, none have reached the 30-percent threshold mandated by the NDRRMC for calamity declarations.