CONTINUING AID. Farmers affected by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng receive aid from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform as workers prepare more bags of rice seeds at its warehouse to be dispersed to agriculture stakeholders. BARMM agriculture officials said they have allotted 20,000 bags (inset) of rice seeds to affected farmers as of Wednesday (Nov. 9, 2022). (Photos from Bangsamoro Information Office – BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government is distributing 20,000 bags of rice seeds to Severe Tropical Storm Paeng-affected farmers, officials said Wednesday.

“The program aims to help farmers restart their sources of income that were washed out by the weather disturbance,” BARMM’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) - Maguindanao chief agriculturist Saudi Mangindra, said.

As initial aid, Mangindra said MAFAR has distributed about 40 percent of the 20,000 sacks of rice seeds under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) Program.

He said another 50,000 sacks of rice under the regular program of MAFAR will also be handed over to farmers.

Maguindanao, together with this city and the 63 villages under BARMM’s Special Geographic Area (SGA) villages in North Cotabato, bore the brunt of Paeng.

Data provided by BARMM Information Office showed that the region’s agriculture and fishery sector lost some PHP586 million due to the weather disturbance.

Paeng affected 14,174 farmers, fisherfolk, and agrarian reform beneficiaries in Maguindanao, Cotabato City, and SGA barangays in North Cotabato.

MAFAR reported that Paeng has affected agricultural lands in 209 villages of 24 municipalities.

The most affected agricultural products included corn, palay, high-value crops, livestock, and fisheries.

MAFAR-Maguindanao Provincial Director Ronjamin Maulana said the cost of damage could go higher after all the reports and assessments are done.

“So far, the recent TS Paeng is unique and considered to be the first typhoon that hardly hit us in the history of Maguindanao with so many losses and damages to our agriculture, fisheries, and livestock commodities,” Maulana said.

In Maguindanao alone, he said Paeng damaged about 6,444 hectares of rice fields, 4,367 hectares of corn crops, 183 hectares of assorted vegetables, 527 hectares of fishponds, and 770 assorted livestock. (PNA)