Sen. Marcos ‘shocked’ by El Niño’s toll on Iloilo

The arid expanse that has become Iloilo due to the dry season and El Niño phenomenon stunned Senator Imee Marcos, sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Francis Allan L. Angelo photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor 

Extreme weather conditions brought by the El Niño phenomenon, which turned rice fields in Iloilo into an arid expanse, shocked Senator Imee Marcos during her visit to the province on Thursday, April 11.

“Pagpasok ko sa Iloilo nagulat ako sobrang alikabok, wala ka nang makitang green, wala kang tubig, walang tanim. Nagulat ako kasi akala ko sa Luzon lang yung ganun […] pero Iloilo is not much better pala,” Marcos said in a press conference.

“It’s a dangerous situation because we always look towards Iloilo as the single largest rice producer in the entire Visayas. Kayo lang naman ang may significant rice crop and it’s now being threatened by el Nino,” the senator added.

The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) reported that as of April 4, the effects of El Niño have caused over P770 million in damages and losses to agriculture in Western Visayas, with Iloilo registering the largest damage at P519 million.

The extreme weather conditions resulted in a production loss of 23 metric tons, affecting a total of 10,116 farmers and fisherfolk in the province.

Marcos emphasized that there is a need to catch up to minimize the damage, citing delays in the small irrigation projects and the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II) in Calinog, Iloilo, which is yet to be completed.

The construction of JRMP II is expected to be completed by September 2024, with the megadam’s full operation beginning by mid-2025.

“In the meantime, we need to rehabilitate small water impounding areas and other irrigation canals. We have no choice but to do that,” she added.

The senator also pointed out that local Department of Agriculture (DA) offices in the Visayas region lag behind in the Registry System for Basic Agriculture (RSBA).

The RSBA is a master list of farmers and fisherfolk that serves as a targeting mechanism for the identification of farmers, fisherfolk, and farm laborers eligible for different agriculture-related programs and services of the government.

The master list is used for the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA), where assistance of P5,000 is given to farmers tilling rice farms of two hectares.

“Ang listahan ng Visayas at ng DA medyo outdated. Kailangan pakialaman ng local government unit kasi mas kabisado nila yan so that the Ilonggo farmers who have been impacted could also get the rightful share,” Marcos stressed.

Marcos has recently filed a Senate resolution seeking an investigation into the ongoing El Niño phenomenon and its effects, such as the water crisis in several areas of the country.

“Despite the various efforts and initiatives being conducted by the government and the increase in water rates, the entire country is still experiencing strained water resources and water crisis in various regions and provinces,” Senate Resolution 986 read.