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The Department of Agriculture will strengthen hybrid rice to ease the effects of El Niño phenomenon in affected farmlands.

“Iyong pakay natin doon sa programa ng ating Masagana Rice Industry Development Program ay iyong pagpapalakas ng hybrid, dahil alam natin na kapag dito sa dry season, maganda iyong performance ng hybrid (Our goal in the Masagana Rice Industry Program is make the hybrid [rice] strong because we know its performance is good during dry season),” DA spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Arnel De Mesa said in an interview over Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon aired over PTV-4.

De Mesa noted that water would be scarce in rain-fed areas as El Niño is expected to peak from February to March and weaken by April.

He reported that following their visit last week, areas in Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos, and Cagayan Valley have enough irrigation.

“Sapat pa naman iyong tubig lalo na sa Angat at Pantabangan Dam at inaasahan natin na maganda iyong tayo ng ating mga palayan doon (We still have enough water in Angat and Pantabangan Dams and we’re expecting good status of our farmlands there),” he said.

To help farmers in areas to be heavily affected by El Niño, the DA has prepared for cloud seeding operations and distribution of small-scale irrigation projects.

The agency also encourages these farmers to plant crops not needing too much water and to observe alternate wetting and drying to lessen the need for water consumption in farmlands.

“Naglaan din ang Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation ng PHP1.8 billion, para ma-insure iyong mahigit sa 916,000 na magsasaka mula January hanggang June ngayong taon at naglaan din kami ng halos kalahating bilyong piso (500 million) para sa mahigit 200,000 na mga magsasaka na puwedeng maapektuhan ng El Niño (The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation also allotted PHP1.8 billion to insure over 916,000 farmers from January to June this year and we also alloted PHP 500 billion for over 200,000 farmers who may be affected by El Niño),” de Mesa said.

When asked if the Philippines can be self-sufficient in rice supply by 2028, de Mesa said the DA would make sure to lay down all its projects, especially on irrigation, to ensure increased local production of rice. (PNA)