GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/04 February) – Rats and other farm pests wreaked havoc anew in South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces, destroying a significant area of corn and palay crops, reports from the local governments’ agriculture offices said Friday.
Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato chief agriculturist, said they have recommended the immediate declaration of the state of calamity in at least three municipalities in the province due to the worsening rat infestation.
He said their monitoring showed that some 1,000 hectares of palay and corn farmlands in the municipalities of Lake Sebu, Surallah and Tantangan have already been devastated due to the continuing onslaught of the rodent pests.
Hardest hit was the municipality of Lake Sebu, where all its 19 barangay were already affected by the infestation, he said.
Legaste said they initially distributed rodenticides to the affected barangays in Lake Sebu to prevent the rats from further destroying the remaining palay and corn crops that are still in reproductive stage.
He said the municipal government of Lake Sebu has already started working on the calamity declaration, which would allow them to utilize a portion of their calamity funds to effectively address the problem.
“We are still waiting for the report from Lake Sebu and we’re also monitoring the situation in other towns, especially Surallah and Tantangan, because some barangays in these areas have reported heavy damages due the infestation,” he said.
Based on Memorandum No. 04 earlier issued by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, a province may declare a state of calamity if two or more municipalities and cities in a province are affected by a disaster.
The memorandum, which provided for the amended procedures and criteria for calamity area declaration, noted that the calamity declaration entitles local government units to utilize their calamity funds that comprise five percent of their annual budgets.
Legaste said the calamity funds of the affected local government units may be utilized for the purchase of additional rodenticides and the provision of some assistance to farmers who were heavily affected by the infestation.
Several years ago, the provincial launched a massive rat control and elimination campaign in various farming communities by mobilizing farmers and residents to hunt down the pests, which usually intensify during the rainy season.
The local government offered farmers and residents some rice assistance in exchange for a specified number of rat tails that they collected during the anti-rat drive.
The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist reported that some 2,249.2 hectares of palay and corn crops were destroyed by the rat infestation that hit several farming areas in the province last year.
The affected areas, which recorded a damage of some P44.15 million, covered Koronadal City and the municipalities of Lake Sebu and T’boli.
In Sarangani, Provincial Agriculturist Jonathan Duhaylungsod said they have monitored cases of rat infestation as well as the emergence of locusts in corn and palay farms as well as the Brontispa disease in some coconuts.
He said they are still evaluating the exact areas and the devastation caused by rat infestation, which reportedly started to come out following the onset of the rains in the area.
Duhaylungsod said they are currently coordinating with the agriculture offices of the province’s seven municipalities to draw up strategies in combating the infestation.
“Most of the areas affected by the rat infestation are our corn and palay areas, especially those in the mountainous areas,” he said in a radio interview.
Duhaylungsod said they initially distributed rodenticides to farmers within the affected areas to help control the infestation. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)