'Juan' farm damage at P4.8-B; over 200,000 tons of rice lost

By Jennifer Ng, Business Mirror

Posted at Oct 21 2010 08:18 AM | Updated as of Oct 21 2010 08:22 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Damage caused by supertyphoon Juan to the country’s farm sector climbed to P4.77 billion on Wednesday, with the palay sector suffering the brunt of the storm, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

The estimates are expected to rise further as officials get updates from the field, once power supply and communications are fully restored in areas hit hard by the typhoon, whose record winds devastated huge parts of Northern Luzon and parts of Central Luzon.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup said that as of 3 p.m., paddy rice destroyed by the storm had already reached 222,336 metric tons (MT) worth P3.78 billion.

”The value of losses to agriculture (due to typhoon Juan) is placed at P4.77 billion based on consolidated reports sourced from the four affected regions of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Regions I, II, and III [Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon],” Salacup told reporters.

The typhoon affected 218,000 hectares of harvest for palay. The DA noted that this is 11.72% of the 1.86 million hectares of harvest area for the October to December period.

“Palay lost to the storm is 3.18% of the forecast production of 6.9 million metric tons (MMT) for the last quarter of the year,” said Salacup.

Earlier, the DA said the potential volume of unmilled rice that could be affected by the storm is about 600,000 metric tons (MT).

Besides palay, the storm also destroyed P598.41 million worth of high-value and commercial crops as well as P312.29 million worth of corn.

Typhoon Juan affected 16,809 MT of various fruits and vegetables planted to 3,680 hectares of farmlands in the 4 regions. A total of 23,976 MT of corn planted in 13,280 hectares were also damaged.

Losses sustained by the fishery and livestock subsectors in the regions affected reached P47 million and P29.6 million, respectively.

The typhoon affected 16 provinces in CAR, Regions I, III and III. The province of Pangasinan suffered the most damage, with losses valued at P1.4 billion, followed by Isabela at P898 million and Nueva Ecija at P588 million.

A total of 234,980 hectares of farmlands in the four regions were affected by the typhoon.

More damage reports from regions affected by the storm are expected to be received by the DA once communication lines are restored.

Up to this time, no government agency has estimated how much of the expected rice and corn supply will be available up to the next harvest, though National Food Authority Administrator Angelito T. Banayo gave assurances that the NFA has enough food stocks and there is no need to import rice to meet the rest of the year’s requirement, even with the damage brought by the typhoon.

“A report will consequently be issued through the DA after the final assessments have come in,” he said.

An estimated 21,996 people are in evacuation centers in affected areas where Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said 217,884 people were affected.

Power up by Wednesday

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said in a briefing it may take up only to Wednesday next week, and not longer, to restore power supply in northern Luzon, but Metro Manila is expected to remain brownout-free.

“We want to correct the impression that it will take a month to complete the restoration, it will not take that long. By Wednesday next week, since today is the start of the rehabilitation, hopefully we get to restore electricity to the Cagayan region,” said Almendras.

“The timeframe for this, if we get the cooperation of the local government units of Isabela and Cagayan [so that we] can get the rights of way approved and no one will oppose it, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) expects to complete the Gamu-Tuguegarao line by Monday. In the northern Isabela portion, we expect 100% restoration on all affected areas by Wednesday next week.”

Ifugao and Kalinga, both rice and corn-growing provinces, suffered the most crop losses—for Ifugao, an estimated P16 million in rice and for Kalinga, known as the rice granary of the Cordillera, P39 million. In corn, Ifugao lost P20.7 million.

Total road damage was initially estimated at P120.5 million in the Cordillera region but this is expected to rise as road inspectors get to other affected areas. A total of 41 landslides were reported by the inspectors in the Cordillera region and more are expected to be known once roads in the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions are tallied.

Aquino to visit Isabela

President Aquino is set to visit typhoon-ravaged Isabela together with some Cabinet members to assess the situation in order to hasten economic assistance for the farmers and rehabilitation works of damaged infrastructures, according to National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive officer Benito Ramos on Wednesday.

Together with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and some Cabinet members, Ramos flew to Isabela and Cagayan on Wednesday to assess the extent of damage to agriculture and infrastructure, including the situation of the affected residents.

Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena also sent an OV-10 equipped with camera to take aerial photographs on the extent of damages in Region 2.

Also, two US C-12 aircrafts with AFP-US combined assessment team flew over the region for aerial inspection.

As per report by the NDRRMC, a total of 63,437 families or 332,299 persons, the bulk of which were in Isabela and Cagayan, in 674 villages of 115 towns and 12 cities in 21 provinces were affected by the typhoon.

The initial estimated cost of damage to infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and schools only in Region 2 and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) was placed at P1,379,544,404 (P1,375,324,404 in agriculture and P4,220,000 in infrastructure/schools).

Totally damaged houses numbered 860 and partially damaged was 5,249.

The NDRRMC said 2,467 families or 11,236 persons remained in 97 evacuation centers, 33 of which were schools.

The death toll rose to 15 persons, seven of which were in Pangasinan.

Isabela, Cagayan, Kalinga and Apayao remained in darkness and according to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NCGP) it will take weeks to restore power in these provinces.

It said power restoration is almost complete in Region 1 and the provinces of Nueva Vizacaya and Quirino in Region 2.

Smart and Globe telecoms have been 97% restored in Region 1, 2 and CAR.

Oil hikes scored

In Malacañang, officials noted the fuel price hikes during the typhoon and called the attention of oil companies. Deputy Presidential Spokesmann Abigail Valte said, “There’s no problem if it’s [price hike] warranted but we would like to appeal to [the oil firms] to go slow [on price increases] considering the devastation that the typhoon has brought in Northern Luzon.”

Senators on the other hand may consider passing a law that will deter oil companies from raising pump prices during and in the aftermath of disastrous weather disturbances like the Typhoon Juan.

”We will look into crafting legislation that bars price hikes during times of calamity to prevent corporate abuse especially when consumers are at their most vulnerable,” said Sen. Francis Pangilinan as he protested the sudden price rise by oil companies the other day, saying it was “bordering on criminal” and “insensitive.”

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said, “It is encouraging to note that as typhoon Juan raged through, significantly less lives were lost compared to the previous storms and typhoons because of heightened public awareness and action.”

Legarda said making cities and towns disaster- resilient, “ought to be the continuous goal, where the whole population live in homes and neighborhoods served by good infrastructure (piped water, good sanitation and drainage, all weather roads, electricity), provided with efficient services (health care, schools, garbage collection, emergency services), and provided with structures that meet sensible building codes, where there are no informal settlements on flooded plains or steep slopes.”

“The country’s agricultural adaptation program must ensure more investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, improved water governance and land use policies, a strengthened extension system that will assist farmers to achieve economic diversification and access to credit,” added Legarda.