CEBU CITY, Philippines – Damage to agriculture in this province due to the prolonged dry spell has reached P186 million, according to initial reports reaching Cebu’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
The figure is based on the damage reports submitted by 22 out of 51 local government units as of April 15, and is still likely to change, said Baltazar Tribunalo Jr, chief of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
"Ang kasagaran nga ilahang gipangreport (LGUs) kay ang grabe nga pagsunog sa mga crops ug mga prutas (Most of the damage they reported were the heavy damages to crops and fruits)," Tribunalo said.
The upland farming communities in Balamban, Asturias, Argao, Tuburan, Compostela, and Dalaguete are only few of the most damaged areas in the province.
Tribunalo said the provincial government recently spent an estimated P7 million for drought relief efforts.
Cebu province has a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) fund of about P135 million – about 30% of it allocated for the Quick Response Fund (QRF).
Tribunalo said that the provincial government will not be using the entire QRF for El Niño relief efforts. He urged the municipalities and cities to adapt to the province’s declaration of state of calamity so they could cost-share and tap their respective QRFs.
Tribunalo also made an appeal to church leaders, saying, “Ang simbahan dapat molihok na, dili lang ta kutob sa pag-ampo, kundi kutob gyud ta sa aksyon (The church should not just pray but take action also)."
The provincial government is prioritizing farmers and marginal fishermen. It has undertaken the following actions:
On Monday, Governor Hilario Davide III signed an agreement with Manila Water Philippine Ventures, Incorporated to conduct a feasibility study covering the legal, technical, and financial aspects of the planned water projects in Cebu.
Tribunalo said that they are requesting funds from the provincial and national government. He added that there are donors who may also possibly help out.
He said the month of May "could be bad and could be worse" because of the possible increase in the price of vegetables, and the impact of the water shortage on public health.
“Worse is we’re not ready for the global warming thing," he said.
"Daghan baya kaayo’g tubig pero nalabay lang. During the rainy season and during the wet season or La Niña, dapat sauna pa gipangdakop na nang mga tubiga. Naa tay mga water dams kay para sa inarun nga tag-init magamit na gyud siya para mainom para sa farmers magamit sa pangbisbis, pero karun that’s the worst thing," he added.
(There was an abundance of water that was just getting thrown away. During the rainy and wet season or La Niña, we should have stored water. We should have had water dams by now during the times of heat. We could have used water to drink and water for the farmers to use. For now, that’s the worst thing.)
Ethel Taneo-Natera, provincial information officer, said that the provincial government is very careful about carrying out relief efforts due to the election ban. It is seeking permission to do this from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“There’s also the issue na mahadlok sa election ban (we should worry about the election ban)," Tribunalo said, echoing Natera's concern.
He said, however, that the election ban should not even be an issue: "Nganong mahadlok man ta nga trabaho man na? Nya panghinganlan sa mga tawo? Unya simbako lang nay gutmon kaayo. Unsa may purpose nga nag-declare ta og state of calamity, nya ang mga tawo dili nato ma-process kay mahadlok ta sa election ban?”
(We shouldn’t be scared of the election ban. Why should we when this is our job? How about the needs of the people? What if they go hungry? What’s the purpose of declaring that we’re in a state of calamity and we can’t even process the needs of the people just because we’re scared of the election ban?)
He said that the real problem now is how to convince voters to choose the right leaders who can foster "progress that is resilient even in times of disasters." – Richale Cabauatan/Rappler.com
Richale Cabauatan is a Rappler intern.