El Nino preparation: GenSan allots P1M for cloud seeding

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 September) – The city government has allocated an initial P1 million for the conduct of cloud-seeding operations and other interventions for the local farming sector when the predicted long dry spell or El Niño phenomenon would later hit the area.

Merlinda Donasco, city agriculture officer, said they have started formulating a comprehensive plan to mitigate the impact of the foreseen dry spell, which was expected to affect parts of the country from October this year to May next year.

Part of the plan is the conduct of cloud-seeding operations in areas that would likely be hit hardest by the calamity, she said.

Donasco said they have prepared vegetable seed stocks and seedlings of various root crops for distribution to palay and corn farms that would be affected by the drought.

The El Niño, which is caused by an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, will initially cause below-normal rainfall that would later progress into drier conditions.

In 2010, a mild El Niño caused farmlands in Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region to dry up for several months, destroying millions worth of agricultural crops.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

In this city, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) estimated that at least 419 hectares of palay farms in the city and around 600 farmers would be directly affected by the long dry spell.

It said the areas that would likely be hit hardest by the drought are Barangays Katangawan, Lagao, Ligaya and Baluan, which are located in the downstream portions of the area’s dams and irrigation canals.

Donasco said the local government is closely monitoring the area’s weather condition and assured that it is prepared to provide the necessary assistance to farmers who would be affected by the calamity.

“We will coordinate with DA (Department of Agriculture) for more interventions when the El Niño later comes in as predicted,” she said.

DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) already launched a series of cloud-seeding operations in the Visayas area due to the effects of the long dry spell.

Cloud seeding is the process of manually spreading either dry ice or salt into the upper part of the clouds to help stimulate the precipitation process and form rain.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala earlier said DA will provide cloud-seeding services to farming communities and provinces that would later experience dry spell episodes.

The DA through its regional field units will also provide farmers’ groups with shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties as well as teach more farmers to employ controlled irrigation technology or alternate wetting and drying of rice fields as recommended by the Philippine Rice Research Institute, he said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)