As disaster survivors from Eastern Visayas converge in Manila to bare mounting poverty, hunger and injustice in the region, research group IBON said that the region’s agriculture and fisheries sector are slow to recover despite billions in available Yolanda funds. The group noted that while a significant number of people in Eastern Visayas depend on agriculture and fisheries, these sectors have remained neglected three years since the super typhoon.
IBON said that the Eastern Visayas was hardest hit by typhoon Yolanda. Almost 45% of the region’s total employed in the agriculture and fisheries sector was affected. Government data further estimates that 80% of 1.1 million metric tons of crops affected by the typhoon was in Eastern Visayas. The biggest crop damage was on coconut trees with the region accounting for 11.3 million of the 12 million total destroyed. Meanwhile, commercial fisheries production in the Eastern Visayas provinces of Leyte and Eastern Samar incurred losses of 48.4% and 13.8% respectively in 2014.
The group noted that in addressing the widespread damage on agriculture and fisheries in Yolanda-affected areas, only a partial amount of total funds earmarked for concerned agencies has been released. Overall weighted accomplishment in achieving physical targets has also been low. For instance, data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) shows that only 16.6% (Php1.2 B) of the Php7.2 billion allocated to the Department of Agriculture has been released as of June 2016. The agency’s overall weighted accomplishment is only 14.1% as of June 2016. Only 38.4% (Php2.9 B) of its Php7.5 billion budget was released to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and it has only achieved 50.7% of its overall weighted accomplishment, said IBON.
According to the group, minimal government response and accomplishment in the agriculture sector is reflected in the decline of agriculture production translated into millions lost in value. In Eastern Visayas, value of coconut production has steadily dropped from Php6.4 billion in 2013, to Php4.7 billion in 2014, and Php4.6 billion in 2015. Value of palay production in the region has also declined by 2.7 percent in the same year. Decline in fisheries is also evident with Eastern Visayas posting a 22.7% decline for example in the value of aquaculture fisheries production in 2015.
The situtation further worsened particularly for farmers when typhoon Yolanda was followed by four more typhoons, three pest infestations hitting coconut, abaca and palay, and a drought due to El Niño, said IBON. An Eastern Visayas farmers organization, Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB), said that their farmer-members are suffering an 85-90% production loss. In coconut, production has fallen from 2,000 nuts per hectare to only 200-500 nuts.
IBON said that the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte should immediately acknowledge the worsening situation in Eastern Visayas. For agriculture and fisheries in particular, government should heed disaster survivors’ demands such as much-needed technical assistance and equipment to farmers and fisherfolk, a two-year moratorium on irrigation fees, and genuine rehabilitation and development of the Philippine agriculture sector, said the group. ###