Negros Occidental

Drought-hit town in Negros Occidental declares calamity, seeks aid

Erwin Delilan

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Drought-hit town in Negros Occidental declares calamity, seeks aid

DRIED UP UP. A closer look at a rice field in Pontevedra town, Negros Occidental, shows the effects of the dry weather conditions.

courtesy of Grace Supe

San Enrique, Negros Occidental Mayor Jilson Tubillara says 90% of the town’s rice fields have already dried up

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The local government of a small town in Negros Occidental declared the municipality under a state of calamity to allow the use of reserved funds to cushion the impact of the El Niño phenomenon.

Drought-hit town in Negros Occidental declares calamity, seeks aid

The San Enrique town council held a special session and passed a resolution, declaring the municipality under a state of calamity, on Monday, April 8.

The move makes San Enrique the first town in Negros Occidental to be declared by its officials under a calamity state following weeks of rising temperatures, dry weather conditions, and lack of rainfall.

San Enrique Mayor Jilson Tubillara said 90% of the town’s rice fields have already dried up, and farmers couldn’t start replanting due to the unfriendly weather conditions.

San Enrique is home to 26,000 people and is one of the top rice-producing towns in the province.

Much of the town’s 2,884.75-hectare land area is devoted to rice farming.

“Now, we cannot replant rice because the rice fields have already dried up. We cannot find water sources to irrigate them to resume rice replanting,” Tubillara said.

He said it was the town’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) that recommended the immediate declaration of the state of calamity so the local government could tap its quick response fund (QRF) to help the farmers.

Tubillara said one of San Enrique’s 10 villages, Tibsok, was the worst hit. There, he said, people have no more source of drinking water, and they don’t even have water to take a bath.

The town government started daily water rations in Tibsok as a result, he said.

“I fear that the water crisis would also happen in other barangays in San Enrique. There has been no rain in southern Negros for four months now,” Tubillara said.

Town officials said they would also use local government funds to send food packs to residents of their 10 villages as soon as their resolution is given the go-ahead by the provincial board.

They said they hoped the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would also send aid.

Negros Occidental Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer told Rappler that they were waiting to receive an official copy of San Enrique’s resolution. He said the province’s legislators would likely approve it as soon as they receive it.

Tubillara said drought was the last thing San Enrique officials and residents wanted given that they were still recovering from the damage caused by the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) that killed more than 6,000 hogs in the town in 2023.

“Now, our rice fields are being affected,” Tubillara said.

As of April 1, a report from the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Western Visayas revealed that the damage to rice and corn in Western Visayas has reached to nearly P770 million, impacting some 20,000 farmers across the region.

Not yet factored into the El Niño-induced damage report is the impact on the sugar industry, as the assessment procedures are being handled by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

In Negros Occidental alone, 13 towns, including San Enrique, are currently struggling due to the effects of the El Niño phenomenon. These include the cities of Sipalay, Kabankalan, and Himamaylan, as well as the towns of Ilog, Cauayan, Binalbagan, Isabela, La Castellana, Moises Padilla, Hinigaran, and Valladolid.

Data from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) showed that the dry weather conditions have caused initial crop damage amounting to P87.4 million in these 13 areas. –

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