SouthCot declares state of calamity due to floods, tornado, pests

Damage wrought by these calamities were estimated at P80 million.

South Cotabato Vice Gov. Eliordo Ogena said the 12-person board unanimously approved the declaration during its regular session on Wednesday based on an endorsement from the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC).

"A lot of our farmers are now suffering because of the previous calamities. Now we can work out some assistance and plan other interventions," Ogena said.

The PDCC recommended the declaration of the province under a state of calamity based on similar declarations made last month by the municipal governments of Surallah, Sto. Nino, Tupi and Polomolok.

Under the Local Government Code, a province may declare a state of calamity if at least three municipalities have made the same declaration.

After making a declaration, a local government unit will then be authorized to utilize its calamity fund, which comprises five percent of their annual budget.

John Lorca, PDCC coordinator, said the provincial government will need at least P21 million to repair damaged infrastructure and provision of assistance, especially inputs, to the affected farmers.  

Based on their assessment, Lorca said the agriculture sector was hit hardest by the calamities with an estimated damage of P53.16 million.

He said the tornado alone in Tupi town last month destroyed some P48.4 million worth of agricultural crops such as banana, papaya and various fruits.

Lorca said the Rice Black Bug infestation, which left a damage of P4.534 million, affected at least 2,465 hectares of farmlands in Koronadal City and the municipalities of Sto. Nino, Norala, Tupi, Tantangan and Banga.

He said the Rice Tungro Virus and Stem Borer infestations left crop damages worth P160,500 and P65,738, respectively.

In terms of damage to infrastructure wrought by the floods, the municipality of Sto Nino reported a damage of P12.19 million followed by Tantangan with P7.441 million, Surallah with P3.5 million, Polomolok with 3.175 and Banga with P297,480.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said they considered seeking the declaration of a state of calamity as early as late February but waited for the damage reports to come in first.

"By the time we consolidated the reports, the summer season had already set in. But we still pushed for it because the effect of the damage was quite heavy," she said.    

Fuentes said the local government will prioritize the immediate repair of the damaged roads, bridges and irrigation facilities, especially those located near the farming communities.

"We need to rush the repairs because the weather forecast says the summer heat will only last until the end of April. After that, the long rainy season will again set in," she said.

Aside from the infrastructure repairs, the governor added that they will also provide agricultural inputs such as hybrid corn and palay seeds, fertilizers and other planting materials to the affected farmers.(Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)