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DA overestimates ‘Ambo’s’ damage to agriculture sector

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By Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Department of Agriculture (DA) may have over¬valued Typhoon “Ambo’s” damage to the agriculture sector after estimates on yield losses went down from nearly ₱2 billion to ₱960 million.

To date, the amount of damage and losses the farm sector has incurred from Typhoon Ambo is now at ₱960.19 million, which is lower compared to the ₱1.56 billion worth of damages that was previously reported.

It turns out that the volume of production loss only stood at 44,151 metric tons (MT) and not 69,935 MT as reported a day earli¬er, according to the latest report of DA’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRM).

Affected agriculture areas are also apparently just around 28,147 hectares, not 28,476 hectares, while the number of affected farmers and fishermen grew from 45,430 to 54,187.

DA said “the decrease in the total damage and losses is attributed to the updated reports from CALABARZON and Central Luzon, particularly on high-value crops and rice, after initial validation.”

“The total amount also includes updated reports from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), MIMAROPA, Bicol and Eastern Visayas Regions. These values are subject to validation,” it added.

Based on the latest report, high-value crops remains the most affected commodity, albeit now lower in figures, at 55 percent or 529.78 million. Of this, the most affected are still banana, papaya and other assorted fruits and vegetables.

Losses incurred in rice only stood at 24 percent or ₱231.32 million of the total damage, while corn is at 13 percent or ₱126.03 million. Fisheries and livestock account for the rest of the damages.

Despite the surprising changes in the estimates, Agriculture Secretary William Dar still ordered to fast-track the delivery of interventions to typhoon-stricken farmers and fisherfolk.

There was no change in the amount to be withdrawn from the agency’s Quick Response Fund (QRF) too, which still stood around ₱700 million.

Dar also said the government has enough funds to compensate insured farmers and that processing of indemnifications is now being fast-tracked .

The other day, an advocacy group urged the DA to be more transparent and that it should release information on how the agency’s funds are being spent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Right to Know Right Now! Coalition (R2KRN) said the DA does deploys different platforms for its programs, but it needs to improve its contents and tools to better inform the public of what it does.

“DA, being the chair of the IATF Task Force Group Food Security that should ensure the sufficiency of food supply in the time of COVID-19, is an important agency. To inspire confidence, it has to address the paucity of information in its various platforms, and start releasing official documents to support and supplement their press conferences and press releases,” R2KRN Co-Convenor Jenina Joy Chavez said.

“The amount of information DA shares leaves much to be de¬sired. For instance, comprehensive reports regarding the ALPAS program which is funded by the ₱31-billion supplemental budget are not available on its website,” she added.

According to her, important details of farmer-beneficiaries, who and where they are, of the Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers, the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) counterpart for agriculture, are also not available.

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