Philippines: Typhoon Koppu causes widespread damage to farmland

Following the typhoon, most of the farmland in the province of Nueva Ecija has been flooded and covered by landslides, while newly-planted crops have been destroyed.
Aya Lowe Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 15;

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines: When Typhoon Koppu hit the Philippine island of Luzon last Sunday (Oct 18), heavy rains bringing flash floods and landslides caused widespread damage to the northern areas of the country and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

One of its biggest casualties was the Philippines’ farmlands in the province of Nueva Ecija, which lies about 145 kilometres from Manila. Most residents of Nueva Ecija rely on agriculture as their main source of income. Following the typhoon, most of the farmland has been flooded and covered by landslides, while newly-planted crops have been destroyed.

Kaiser Tablang, a farmer who owns 1.5 hectares of crops, had only recently planted a selection of beans, eggplant and corn in the Nueva Ecija town of Galbadon. After the typhoon hit, he found his farmland completely covered in rubble from a nearby landslide.

He said this is not the first time it has happened. “A lot was damaged here compared to the last storm. Almost nothing has been left."

Mr Tablang is not alone. A glimpse of the landscape around him shows hectares upon hectares of ruined crops.

Concerns of an upcoming dry season caused by El Nino, a weather phenomenon which leads to dry spells, had prompted many farmers to plant their crops two months earlier than usual. Then Typhoon Koppu came along and destroyed it all. Early estimates by the Department of Agriculture put the losses at US$137 million.

Rice crops, which make up the majority of produce grown in the region, were one of the hardest hit.

Said Evelyn Santos, head of the Crop Development Division at the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in Nueva Ecija: “The situation here with farmers is how to start farming again especially if they do not have any more capital. They need the government support on re-starting their farms, especially in securing the provision of seeds via full subsidies of seeds and crop insurance from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation."

The Agri-Pinoy trading building in Nueva Ecija is usually busy with farmers and traders selling their goods. Now it stands empty as farmers try to assess the damage and re-plant their crops.

According to Mrs Santos, farmers have lost around 40 per cent to 50 per cent of their profits for the year. The drop in production means the Philippines could be forced to import more rice. The country is one of the world's biggest buyers of rice. Imports approved for delivery this year reached nearly 1.8 million tonnes, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand.

On the bright side, the rains brought by Typhoon Koppu have filled up water-starved dams. Farmers can begin planting again without having to worry too much about water supply.

But a lot of work has to be done before that can happen. Farmers like Mr Tablang now have to spend the next few months getting rocks and rubble from the landslide off their land, to make it ready for re-planting.

- CNA/ms

Typhoon Koppu the most destructive in Philippines this year
Julie M. Aurelio and Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Enquirer AsiaOne 23 Oct 15;

ALTHOUGH it has weakened into a low pressure area, "Lando" is the most destructive typhoon to hit the country so far this year, leaving behind more than P7.3 billion (S$218 million) in damage to agriculture and infrastructure, and at least 41 lives lost.

"So far, for this year, Lando is the worst in terms of the casualties and the damage it caused. We hope this will be the last," said Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC.)

Lando (international name: Koppu) was the 12th storm to batter the Philippines this year. When it first struck the east coast of Luzon on Sunday morning, its gusts reached 210 kilometers an hour, making it the second strongest storm to hit the country this year.

As of Thursday afternoon, the low pressure area was spotted 240 km east of Basco, Batanes.

Of the damage recorded all over Luzon, P6.43 billion was accounted for by agricultural crops and P902.39 million by infrastructure.

So far, the agency has confirmed 41 deaths in Luzon, 78 injured and five still missing.

In its update on Thursday, the NDRRMC said the typhoon affected 1,242,239 persons in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Metro Manila and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Of the affected people, 113,584 are still in 455 evacuation centres.

So far, local authorities, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and nongovernment units have given P23.21 million worth of assistance to the affected families.

Blackout, flooding

Province-wide power outages remain in the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Aurora, Quezon, Kalinga and Mountain Province, as well as five cities and 86 towns.

Sixteen passengers, three motorized bancas, and four rolling cargoes are still stranded because of rough seas.

Since hitting land on Sunday, the NDRRMC has monitored 765 flooding incidents in the provinces of Pangasinan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Bulacan, Pampanga, Zambales, Cagayan and Benguet.

Floods and landslides caused 101 roads and 11 bridges in northern and Central Luzon to be impassable, while 18,758 houses were damaged.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) placed Lando's damage to national roads, bridges and flood control facilities in five Luzon regions at P927.71 million.

In a report, DPWH Bureau of Maintenance Thursday said that damage to flood control projects alone amounted to P435.56 million.

Central Luzon topped the list with damage reaching P448.96 million, including more than P218 million worth of flood control facilities and P145 million in damaged bridges.

Region III was followed by CAR with P209.24 million; Cagayan Valley, P201.63 million; Ilocos, P67.35 million and Bicol, P520,000.

The DPWH also reported that as of Thursday morning, sections of 39 national roads in northern and Central Luzon remained closed to vehicular traffic due to landslides, floods, sunken roadways and fallen electric posts, trees and other debris.

Twenty-five of these roads are in CAR while the remaining 14 are in Central Luzon.

The closed thoroughfares include Kennon Road and three other roads in Baguio City-Legarda Road, Western Link Circumferential Road and Military Fort Road.

Also impassable to all types of vehicles are eight roads in Benguet province; five in Tarlac; four each in Kalinga and Pampanga; three in Mountain Province; two each in Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija; and one in Aurora.

Dalton Pass now open

The DPWH office in Cagayan Valley said the landslide-prone Dalton Pass in Nueva Vizcaya had been cleared and opened to two-way traffic on Wednesday morning.

DPWH Director Nerie Bueno in Cagayan Valley told the Inquirer that the regional office had "prepositioned road-clearing equipment and field personnel who will promptly respond to rescue and clearing operations along national highways and bridges in the region."

Contacted by phone, Bueno recalled that on Oct. 19 evening, "massive landslides took place in Barangay (Village) Villa Flores in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, causing road closure and traffic buildup."

However, the "road sections were promptly cleared and opened to traffic at 8:30 a.m. the following day," she said.

Later that day, an undisclosed number of vehicles were stalled in Sta. Fe after three trailer trucks broke down in separate locations in the municipality.

"This led some undisciplined motorists to counterflow on both lanes, causing traffic buildup," said Bueno.

The DPWH field staff "coordinated with the provincial government in controlling the situation."

Additional reporting by Erika Sauler.