TACLOBAN CITY, Aug. 13 (PNA) — Eastern Visayas has been hit by mild El Niño this year, but reduced rainfall has not affected rice planting activities in the region, the Department of Agriculture regional office here reported.

DA Regional Executive Director Leo P. Cañeda said that mild drought will persist until end of September, however majority of traditional rice-producing areas managed to plant in this year’s cropping.

Of the 169,000 hectares of lands devoted to farming, about 85,000 hectares are rain fed areas, which could be affected by prolong dry season.

“We’re doing all preparations so we won’t be affected by El Niño. We have water impounding projects to collect water that we can tap if the dry season persists,” he told PNA.

The Philippines Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) expects a decreased amount of rainfall in Eastern Visayas towards the end of the year due to the phenomenon.

Since the mild El Niño hit the region, the amount of rainfall recorded in May was 5.0mm per hour, way below than the normal level of 140mm for the period.

The region restored the normal volume in June, but in July, rainfall was 37.5 mm, way below the normal level of 186 mm for the month.

El Niño happens when there is an unusual warm surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean accompanied by abnormal rainfall.

The farm department is promoting the use of drought tolerant rice varieties such as the green super rice and also advocates crop conversion or diversification in rice areas that lack water supply. Farmers are encouraged to plant vegetables, corn or other commodities that only require minimal amount of water. (PNA)