By Stephanie Sevillano

CLOUD SEEDING OPERATION. A Piper Navajo scatters sodium chloride on cloud formations 4,500 feet above the ground in targeted areas in Cagayan Valley on Sunday (Feb. 25, 2024). The Department of Agriculture said the initial cloud seeding operation was a success as it caused rains despite the ongoing El Niño. (Photo courtesy of DA Region 2)

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) reported Tuesday the successful cloud seeding operations (CSOps) in the Cagayan Valley Region.

In a statement, the DA Regional Field Office (RFO) 2 said the first operation caused light and moderate rains in select areas in the region despite the El Niño phenomenon.

“This can cushion the initial impact of El Niño. Crops really need the precipitation and the cooling effect of the rain,” DA RFO 2 Regional Executive Director Rose Mary Aquino said.

Piper Navajo flyers scattered 33 sacks of sodium chloride on cloud formations 4,500 feet above the ground in targeted areas.

The DA said preparations started on Feb. 19.

“The CSOp has to consider many parameters to be executed. We have to confirm the identified clouds spotted by the apps from BSWM (Bureau of Soils and Water Management) by our skyspotters. Furthermore, we have to really get the timing that these clouds are above the targeted cornland, and other areas, subject to the direction of the wind,” DA Regional Engineering Division’s Daisy Saldo said.

Cloud seeding, a weather modification technique, is one of the DA’s interventions to help farmers amid the persisting effect of El Niño.

PAF aids cloud seeding ops

Meanwhile, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Wednesday said its 900th Air Force Weather Group (AFWG) together with the Department of Agriculture Region 2 and Bureau of Soils and Water Management, officially began cloud seeding operations on Feb. 25.

“Utilizing a civilian Piper Navajo aircraft, personnel of the 900th AFWG successfully dispersed over 800 kgs of sodium chloride onto cloud formations across Southern Cagayan and Northern Isabela on Feb. 25 and 26,” PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a statement.

She added that cloud seeding operations are being conducted to supplement crop water needs during periods of low rainfall.

More intervention

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., meanwhile, ordered the mobilization of a response team to deliver aid to farmers and fishers affected by the prolonged drought in Mindoro.

“I urge our mayors, governors, and other local government officials to engage with national government agencies promptly to alleviate the hardships faced by our citizens, particularly the vulnerable farmers and fisherfolk,” he said.

Laurel also ordered the distribution of rice stocks to the affected population through the National Food Authority (NFA), the mobilization of the Survival and Recovery (SURE) aid program which provides around PHP25,000 interest-free loan for three years to eligible farmers, and the consideration of possible deployment of solar-powered irrigation systems, among others.

In the Western Visayas and Ilocos regions, the DA will distribute vegetable seeds, as well as planting materials for high-value crops in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The DA earlier distributed hybrid rice seeds and fertilizers to farmers in Western Visayas.

In January, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed Executive Order (EO) No. 53 to streamline, reactivate, and reconstitute the old El Niño task forces under EO No. 16 (s. 2001) and Memorandum Order No. 38 (s. 2019).

Under EO No. 53, the President directed the task force to secure a comprehensive disaster preparedness and rehabilitation plan and ensure “systematic, holistic, and results-driven interventions” to aid the Filipinos and alleviate the devastating effects of disasters. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)