By Darryl John Esguerra

(PNA File Photo)

MANILA – The number of provinces to be affected by El Niño is expected to rise to over 70 in the next three months despite the reported weakening of the phenomenon.

“Meron pa ring mga probinsiya na maaapektuhan (There are still provinces that will be affected),” Task Force El Niño Spokesperson and Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Joey Villarama said in a Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon interview Wednesday.

“In fact, doon sa projection ng PAGASA ay tataas pa mga to mid-70s, mga 76 pa po ang puwedeng maapektuhan na probinsiya in varying degrees in the next three months (In fact, according to PAGASA’s [Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration] projection, the number of affected provinces will increase to the mid-70s, about 76 provinces may be affected in varying degrees in the next three months),” he added.

Currently, 67 provinces across eight regions –Regions 1 (Ilocos Region), 2 (Cagayan Valley), 3 (Central Luzon), 4-A (Calabarzon), 4-B (Mimaropa), 6 (Central Luzon), 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) and 12 (Soccsksargen)– are being affected by the phenomenon, 30 of which are experiencing drought.

The Department of Agriculture earlier reported that the total damage of El Niño to the agriculture sector has reached PHP1.75 billion.

The weather bureau said El Niño may continue to weaken until the March-April-May season. (PNA)