Sugar Planter urges state of calamity declaration in NegOcc

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD CITY – A sugar planter group president is urging Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, and provincial board members to declare a state of calamity in the province.

Manuel Lamata, president of UNIFED, said in a weekend statement that such a declaration would enable the purchase of planes for cloud seeding.

“Our sugar industry needs rain now,” said Lamata.

He also stressed the need for long-term solutions, adding, “This will be the same next year, and the province should be prepared to assist the island of Negros.”

Representatives Mercedes Alvarez-Lansang of the 6th district and Atty. Dino Yulo of the 5th district have already called for cloud seeding to alleviate the harsh impacts of the El Niño phenomenon, which has particularly ravaged sugar farms and hurt farmers in the region.

“I am for it,” stated Alvarez-Lansang during an impromptu interview at the opening of the 28th Panaad sa Negros festival at Panaad Park and Stadium on Monday evening.

She highlighted the urgency for action, asserting, “We cannot just sit by and wait; if it’s possible, why not?”

Alvarez-Lansang has sought the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) assistance for farmers in her district, notably the southern part, which is experiencing extreme heat and dryness to the point where the land cannot be cultivated.

“I have been going around, especially in the upland areas; it’s obviously very dry, and we are looking for ways to help the farmers,” she added.

She has also met with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regarding forest fires and underscored that reforestation is the long-term answer, saying, “We will be asking for seedlings from the DA and DENR to replant.”

Meanwhile, Yulo has challenged the Bureau of Soil and Water Management’s (BSWM) position against cloud seeding, disputing their claims about the lack of seedable clouds and potential harm to mango crops in Guimaras.

He provided photographic evidence of clouds to the BSWM and remains steadfast in his advocacy, contending that the benefits of cloud seeding could outweigh the risks for southern Negros, far from Guimaras.

“The BSWM should have noticed the rain clouds over southern Negros,” Yulo insisted, calling for proactive government measures against climate adversities.

Governor Lacson, initially supportive of cloud seeding after viewing Yulo’s photos, relayed to reporters the experts’ assessment that the clouds lacked the necessary moisture for effective seeding.

“We were hoping it could be done, and we asked them to reconsider,” Lacson said, referring to recent talks with DA regional officials. However, he acknowledged the experts’ consensus that seeding wouldn’t produce significant rainfall, concluding, “It will not result in the rain we want.”