MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged farmers and fishermen in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region to secure their farm animals and harvest marketable crops and fish that may be affected by the expected hazardous eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas province.
Ashfall had been observed in areas outside the region, even reaching parts of Central Luzon, about 200 kilometers away from the volcano, on Sunday and Monday.
The DA also reminded farmers to ensure that their farm equipment were secure before leaving their communities.
The agency has yet to release an estimated value of agricultural damage from the phreatic (steam-driven) eruption of Taal, but Agriculture Assistant Secretary Andrew Villacorta said the DA had already sent personnel to Batangas to assess the situation.
On social media, posts showed some residents in Batangas evacuating their homes with their cows and carabaos in tow, while others showed images of their vegetable farms covered with ash and mud.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he had instructed the DA’s regional directors to provide immediate updates on risk areas and grant families of farmers and fisherfolk appropriate assistance.
Those whose livelihoods were ruined may avail of loans under the DA’s survival and recovery loan program. Under this assistance, farmers may get an emergency loan of P25,000 at zero interest and payable in three years.
They can also borrow a higher amount under the recently launched Micro and Small Agribusiness Loan Program.
Dar said the DA’s priority was to ensure the safety of farmers, fisherfolk and their families, especially those in rural areas.
The National Food Authority (NFA) also assured consumers that its warehouses in areas affected by Taal’s recent activity had enough rice stocks.
“We have sufficient rice stocks in the regions and provinces affected by the ashfall. There are NFA employees [manning] skeletal forces in central and field offices and in warehouses, ready to serve the requirements of [local governments], the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and other relief agencies should they need rice for ashfall victims,” NFA Administrator Judy Carol Dansal said.
Provinces in Calabarzon and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) regions have 1.93 million bags of rice in stock.
Currently, the county’s rice reserves in households and in commercial and NFA warehouses are enough for 100 days, the agency said.
Dansal also assured the public that rice being stored by the NFA was safe for consumption, noting these were stored in areas not affected by the ashfall. INQ
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