GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 Feb) — The provincial government of South Cotabato is studying the possibility of declaring a state of calamity due to the worsening infestation of rats and other farm pests that has affected at least four of 10 towns.
South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr, said he has directed the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) and other related agencies to evaluate the extent of the damage wrought by the infestation on the province’s palay or rice areas to allow the local government to properly address the problem.
“We’re still updating our data but it initially appears that the affected areas have been expanding,” he said in a radio interview.
Pingoy said their monitoring showed that the rat infestation has affected the municipalities of Lake Sebu, Tantangan and Surallah.
The local government of T’boli also reported traces of locust infestation in some of their rice-producing villages.
A report released by OPAG showed that more than 300 hectares of palay farmlands in Tantangan and over 400 hectares in Surallah have been devastated by the rodent infestation.
It said the infestation already affected at least 1,200 farmers and estimated production losses of 4,789 metric tons (MT) of palay valued at P16 million.
Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato chief agriculturist, said the rat infestation in Tantangan and Surallah started in late December and worsened during the past weeks.
In the case of Lake Sebu town, he said the infestation was initially monitored early last year and continued until the local government decided to declare the entire area under a state of calamity last October.
“(The infestation) was mainly caused by young rodents. They don’t consume our rice crops but attack by harnessing their teeth on the plants,” Legaste said.
He said such mode of attack proved to be more devastating for the rice farms as the young rats don’t need to get full and would not stop their attacks until they later grow their teeth.
Legaste said they have already distributed supplies of rodenticides to the affected areas through the municipal agriculture offices.
He said they also intensified the implementation of the food-for-work scheme that entitles farmers or residents to avail of at least kilo of rice for every 10 rat tails that they would be able to collect.
In terms of the infestation’s impact on province’s rice production, Legaste clarified that the situation has remained manageable.
He said the infestation has so far affected only around three percent of the province’s rice production target of over 21,000 MT for the first quarter of the year.
Legaste noted that total areas affected by the rat infestation were considered insignificant compared to the total farms areas in the province that are presently planted to palay and due for harvest soon. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)