THE government has awarded an initial P2.708 million worth of assistance to farmers and fisherfolk in Batangas affected by the Taal ashfall.

“President (Rodrigo R.) Duterte and Agriculture Secretary William (D.) Dar awarded an initial P2.708 million worth of assistance including crop insurance, livelihood, seed and seedlings, and farm machinery, among other donations to the affected farmers and fisherfolk of Talisay, Tanauan, and Sto. Tomas,” the Department of Agriculture (DA) said in a statement Tuesday.

Some P160 million worth of assistance was also given elsewhere in Batangas, including Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Lemery, Laurel, Lipa City, San Jose, Nasugbu, Mataas Na Kahoy, Balete, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Padre Garcia, Malvar, and Taal.

The government is planning to put together a P30-billion package to respond to the damage caused by the Taal Volcano eruption.

The DA has said it will set aside P357 million from its Quick Response Fund for rehabilitation and recovery programs. The DA Field Office in Region IV-A also provided P22 million worth of assistance like equipment, seed, planting materials, and fingerlings.

Assistance amounting to P1.9 million was given by the Philippine Coconut Authority to affected coconut farmers, including seedlings and fertilizer. The Bureau of Plant Industry will also distribute coffee, cacao, mango, lanzones, rambutan, jackfruit, corn, squash, and cowpea seedlings.

The Agricultural Credit Policy Council will also provide P10 million for the use of the DA Taal Livestock Care Emergency Operations Center “to pay owners who wish to pawn their animals at 50% of their market value.”

Damage to agriculture due to the eruption and ashfall has been estimated at P3.33 billion, with the fisheries sector accounting for the about 50%. The damage counts 16,150 hectares of farmland, and caused the death of 55,881 farm animals. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang