Thursday, September 17, 2015

State of Calamity

By Anton Antonio
September 16, 2015

In an article titled “El Niño”, which I published last September 3, 2015, I wrote: “The El Niño phenomenon happening in the last quarter of this year and extends up to the first quarter of next year is a real worrisome problem (if it comes to pass).  The most likely impact will be on (a) potable water availability. (b) health issues because of the extreme hot weather conditions, and (c) agricultural productivity and consequently on food security… although there will be other peripheral potential problems.  We, as a people, together with government should (this early) start preparing for this year’s El Niño.”  On the same day also published this news item:


BASCO, Batanes --- This northernmost island-province in the country, known to be perennially hit by typhoons, is experiencing a prolonged dry spell, prompting its officials to declare the province under a state of calamity on Tuesday.  Gov. Vicente Gato, in a letter, asked the provincial board to declare Batanes under a state of calamity, citing a report from the provincial agriculture office that showed the province losing P10 million worth of crops and livestock due to the absence of strong rain.  “The prolonged dry spell throughout the province (in) the last month has significantly affected productivity at the farm level since vegetables require a considerable amount of rainfall for optimum yield,” said Cesar Hostallero, officer-in-charge of the provincial agriculture office, in a report.  Local agriculture officials said Typhoon “Ineng” (international name: Goni), which hit the province last month, also damaged crops and utilities in the province.  The typhoon was accompanied by strong wind that generated sea spray which damaged farmlands, they said.  Declaring the province under a state of calamity, officials said, would also help the provincial government use its calamity fund to repair the local water and electricity distribution systems damaged by the recent typhoon.  A certification from Constantino Gavilan, chief meteorological officer of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) here, showed that the highest recorded amount of rainfall in the province was 138.5 millimeters on May 10.  It said rainfall volume in the following months fell to 27 mm and below.  In a telephone interview on Thursday, Celso Batallones, manager of the Department of Agriculture’s Batanes experiment station, said initial assessment by the province’s agriculture field personnel showed a bleak scenario for agriculture.  “In the past months, our farmers’ crops were barely trying to survive the effects of El Niño, but when Typhoon “Ineng” hit, all that remained was wiped out,” he said.  Now that farmers have just started to replant their crops, which include garlic, sweet potato, corn, rice and vegetables, drought has crept back and is threatening to wipe these out, Batallones said.  “If little or no rainfall will be felt in the province within this planting season, which lasts until this month, then that could be it for our farmers – no harvest for this season,” he said.  Arthur Tabig, 38, a farmer in Mahatao town, said all his crops were damaged due to drought and the recent typhoon.  Tabig said farmers like him were hoping that the provincial government will help them recover by providing them seedlings.  Evelyn Maduro, a local caterer, said vegetables sold in the province are expensive because these are shipped from Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.  She said she recently bought two pieces of eggplant for P60.  Lorenzo Caranguian, DA regional director for Cagayan Valley, said the provincial boards of Isabela and Quirino had earlier declared a state of calamity in these provinces due to the dry spell’s impact on corn farms.  “The report we got is that in Isabela, most of those affected were the coastal towns,” Caranguian said.  In an Aug. 11 report, Lucrecio Alviar, DA regional director in Cagayan Valley, said Isabela reported about P706,000 worth of damage to corn crops in 129,000 hectares (ha) of farmland there.  Quirino, on the other hand, lost about P119,000 of corn crops in 61,000 ha.  The DA regional office has requested P221,000 from the DA national office as rehabilitation assistance to farmers affected by drought in Isabela and Quirino. --- Juliet Cataluña and Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Global warming is already upon us.  Throw-in El Niño and we have the perfect combination of elements to a disaster.  Declaring a state of calamity in the Batanes island group is a good wake-up call for all of us.  The Batanes situation could very well be a microcosm (meaning: a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger) of the larger dire situation in our country.  Unless concrete steps are taken to conserve our water resources now and in the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year, the entire Philippines will be in a state of calamity.

Thoughts to promote positive action…

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Antonio, A. C. (2015). “El Niño”.  Retrieved on September 16, 2015 from, (2015). “Batanes Under State of Calamity Due to Dry Spell”.  Retrieved on September 16, 2015 from, (2015). “Batanes Under State of Calamity Due to Dry Spell”.  Retrieved on September 16, 2015 from

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