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Worst dry spell in Philippines in 17 years looms, UN agency says

Publication Date : 09-06-2014


The United Ntontions is keeping an eye on the possible impact of “what could be the worst El Nino in 17 years” even as it follows through on efforts to rebuild in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

In its latest bulletin on the Philippines, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) raised concern that with prolonged dry spells and stronger storms expected to hit the country this year, tropical cyclones were seen affecting the north with increased intensity.

“The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has warned not only of drier conditions and decreased rainfall, but also of stronger tropical cyclones once the rainy season begins in June,” the UN office said.

“According to Pagasa, the paths tropical cyclones follow this year could shift to the northern part of Luzon,” the agency added.

The UN Ocha also noted that an occurrence of the El Nino phenomenon in 1998 affected nearly 74,000 hectares of agricultural lands in 18 provinces in the Philippines.

Citing data from the Department of Agriculture, the agency said that the country’s rice and corn production during the first half of 1998 were reduced by 27 per cent and 44 per cent, respectively.

Back then, Central Visayas bore the brunt of a prolonged drought that took a toll on some 900,000 people.

“In Mindanao, 74 people died and more than 450,000 agricultural families faced severe food insecurity because of the drought caused by El Nino,” the UN Ocha said.

Regarding post-Yolanda efforts, the agency said that only 56 per cent of the US$788 million that the UN requested from international donors has been funded so far.

Last May, the DA reported that crops valued at a total of 823.29 million pesos ($18.95 million) have so far been lost to the early effects of a looming El Nino dry spell.

Based on a preliminary assessment by the DA’s field units, corn farms were the most affected, involving 28,105 hectares with foregone harvest equivalent to 45,729 metric tonnes of corn.

The dry spell has also taken its toll on rice farms and vegetable farms.

More than 12,000 tonnes of palay from 4,618 hectares of farms have been lost, as well as 1,190 tonnes of vegetables from 242 hectares of land.


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