SoCot braces for El Ni?o

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato chief agriculturist, said the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) endorsed such move after the province was identified anew by the government as among the areas that would likely be hit by the drought.


The provincial government last activated the task force El Niño in early 2005 when the province was affected by an intense drought, which destroyed at least P100 million worth of agricultural crops.


According to an advisory dated October 17 issued by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the province's southern tip has already started to experience below normal rainfall conditions.


Dr. Prisco Nilo, acting PAGASA director, cited in its November 6 advisory that the weather condition has turned normal but they expect the El Niño to intensify in the next three months.


He said there are indications that the drought would likely continue through April to June next year.


Legaste said the task force would lead anew the implementation of various mitigation measures set by the PDCC to help cushion the effects of El Niño.


Legaste, who headed the task force El Niño last year, said his office has already prepared a mitigation plan in case the drought would intensify in the area.


"We will make sure that our farmers will have other sources of income when the long drought comes in," he said.


Initially, Legaste said they have identified at least 6,000 hectares of rice lands for the planting of corn.


He said the Provincial Demo Farm has also started distributing corn and vegetable seeds to farmers in areas that would likely be hit hardest by the dry spell.


Legaste said they have already distributed 2,000 kilograms (kgs) of corn seeds, 112 kgs of squash seeds, 55 kgs of okra seeds, 55 kgs of upo seeds, 25 kgs of eggplant seeds, 10 kgs of patola seeds, 15 kgs of pole sitao seeds, 130 kgs of bush sitao/cowpea seeds and 371 kgs of upland rice.


Legaste said the repair and rehabilitation of the province's irrigation systems are also ongoing in various parts of the province.


He added that they are also monitoring the possible occurrence of various plant pests and diseases such as rodents, rice black bug, locust, army worms and other sucking insects that usually attack farmlands during the dry period.