Drought Hits Catanduanes Hard - BM

VIRAC, Catanduanes—Even in the island-province of Catanduanes, known as a typhoon path and past scene of heavy rains, over 5,650 hectares of rice land in all of its 11 towns have dried up due to the El Niño phenomenon, according to the local agriculture office.

In a report to Gov. Joseph Cua, provincial agriculturist Herbert Evangelista placed the partial losses in the province’s rice production at 1,976 metric tons worth over P8.5 million. The municipalities covered by the initial report were Bato, Gigmoto, Panganiban, San Andres, Caramoran and Pandan.

The figures are expected to rise when assessment of the drought effects in five other towns covering 4,000 hectares of rice fields is completed, Evangelista said.

The drought has affected 1,656 hectares of standing rice crops tilled by 1,443 farmers in these six towns. Majority of the crops were in the reproductive stage and of the total, 567 hectares have been assessed as having no chance of recovery, Evangelista said.

The lack of rainfall starting in September 2009 has led to the drying up of rice paddies in the areas covered by the report. These farms are either rain-fed or having insufficient irrigation system.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has predicted that the drought will last up to May this year, although rains could fall as early as the second half of March.

Records at the Pagasa Virac Synoptic Station show that rainfall from November 2009 to February 2010 fell by an average of 67.5 percent compared with the same period one year ago.

In December 2009 alone, the weather bureau recorded only 97.8 millimeters (mm) of rainfall, just a fraction of the 596.7 mm in December 2008. Precipitation in January 2010 was slightly better at 217.5 mm, but was still 60 percent less than the 544 mm recorded in January 2009.

Pagasa weather specialist Jun Pantino said that this February alone, it has rained in only eight of the 28 days, with a total volume of 46.5 mm, far from the 279.3 mm recorded a year ago. The last time rain fell in this capital town was on February 17.

Pantino said that while there have been clouds, precipitation is hindered by strong winds and the effects of global warming. Daytime temperatures hover at just over 30 degrees centigrade, with morning temperatures cool at about 19 degrees, while humidity is in the high 80s, he said.

Meanwhile, the Virac Water District (Viwad) has warned that it may resort to rationing if water distribution from its three water sources continuously drops.

Viwad general manager Virgilio Arcilla said that its total water production has fallen by 50 percent from the normal 102 liters per second to about 54 liters per second, forcing the water firm to undertake sandbagging at the water sources to maximize intake of water into its reservoirs.

The water firm advised its 5,800 household consumers to conserve water by shutting off faucets when not in use, reusing water and putting off indiscriminate use of hoses in watering plants and cars.

Arcilla also appealed to consumers to report leakages along its transmission and distribution lines and even in house connections so that repairs are promptly undertaken.

“Right now, the extra water we can use is being wasted in leaks,” he said.

In Sorsogon, reports reaching the Business Mirror said that intermittent rainfall and showers have been taking place in the province daily since Friday last week, lowering the risk for the area from the effects of the prolonged dry spell being experienced in some parts of the country.

Easterly winds bringing in rainclouds had been prevailing in the province maintaining temperatures at normal levels, local weathermen said.

Written by Danny O. Calleja / Correspondent
Monday, 15 March 2010 18:53
Source: Business Mirror