TAAL VOLCANO’S eruption has damaged more than P500 million worth of crops and livestock, the Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday.

Agriculture damage in the Calabarzon Region — made up of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon — rose to P577.39 million involving 2,772 hectares of land and 1,967 animals, the agency said in a bulletin.

Affected crops include rice, corn, coffee, cacao, banana and other high-value crops, it said.

Vegetables accounted for 56.1% of the damaged crops, followed by banana (21%), coffee (10.9%), corn (7.2%). Rice, livestock and cacao accounted for 4.9%.

On Sunday, Taal Volcano spewed a giant ash column, covered large parts of Southern Luzon and cities near the capital on Monday, forcing financial markets to suspend trading and the Manila airport to close.

The volcano spewed lava on Monday, a day after it blew ash and steam into the air. Authorities warned that a “hazardous” eruption could happen in days as they raised the alert status to Level 4, the second-highest in a 5-step scale.

The Agriculture department said about 6,000 fish cages were at risk, especially those for tawilis, a freshwater sardine found exclusively in the Philippines, and tilapia.

Production loss was estimated at 15,033 metric tons, with high sulfur content from the volcanic eruption likely to have killed fish.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar ordered his agency’s marketing arms and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to ensure there were no unnecessary price spikes.

The government will distribute livestock, rice and corn seed stocks, planting materials for high-value crops and other production inputs worth P21.7 million to 16 affected areas.

These are the municipalities of Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Talisay, Lemery, Laurel, San Jose, Nasugbu, Mataas na Kahoy, Balete, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Padre Garcia, Malvar and Taal, and the cities of Lipa and Tanauan.

The Bureau of Animal Industry also has available medicine for affected livestock and two trucks that can be used to rescue and evacuate animals.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Plant Industry will distribute 5,000 coffee mother plants and 1,000 cacao seedlings to affected coffee and cacao farms.

The Fisheries bureau will provide seven million fingerlings of tilapia, 20,000 for giant freshwater prawn, 50,000 for catfish, 100,000 for bighead carp, and 5,000 for silver perch once operations at Taal Lake resume.

The Agricultural Credit Policy Council has P30 million in initial funding that will benefit about 1,200 farmers and fisherfolk in Batangas, while the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. will allot funds to indemnify insured farmers and fishermen, the Agriculture department said.

Meanwhile, the economic cost of Taal Volcano’s eruptions and tremors since Sunday may have reached about P7.63 billion, the bulk of which affected the service sector, according to estimates by the National Economic and Development Authority.

Much of the cost is due to foregone income, NEDA Undersecretary Adoracion M. Navarro told BusinessWorld. This may translate to 0.3% of the region’s total economic growth, she said.

The service sector was the hardest hit, with P4.32 billion in estimated economic losses, followed by the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector with P3.28 billion and the industry sector with P27.16 million, she said in a mobile phone message.

The Calabarzon Region had the second-largest contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) with a 17% share in 2018, next to the National Capital Region’s 36% share.

Meanwhile, the Budget department said the budget for calamity response should be ready since the 2020 national budget had been enacted and the notice of cash allocation for the first quarter had been issued.

“The National Government can respond to the eruption,” Budget Undersecretary Laura B. Pascua said in a mobile phone message.

The local disaster agency has a P16-billion budget for calamity fund this year, while other agencies and local government units have their own quick-response funds. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang and Beatrice M. Laforga