GenSan, Sarangani bracing for another El Niño spell

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 September)—Irrigation personnel here and in nearby Sarangani province have stepped up the repair and maintenance works on the area’s irrigation systems in preparation for the onslaught of another long dry spell or El Niño phenomenon that was foreseen to hit next month.

Engr. Gina Lozano, acting chief of the local National Irrigation Administration (NIA), said such move is part of the agency’s ongoing mitigation efforts for the El Niño, which was projected to affect an estimated 1,011 hectares (ha) of palay farms in the city and nearby Sarangani province.

Citing their initial assessment, she said that 419 ha of palay farms in the city and 592 ha in Sarangani were found vulnerable to the impact of the dry spell.

Lozano said they expect that around 600 farmers in this city and another 494 in Sarangani would be directly affected by the calamity.

In this city, she said the farm areas that would likely be hit hardest by the drought are barangays Katangawan, Lagao, Ligaya and Baluan.

“These are areas located in the downstream portions of our dams and
irrigation canals,” she said.

In Sarangani, Lozano said the most vulnerable areas for the drought are farmlands in the municipalities of Malungon, Glan, Alabel and portions of Kiamba.

Aside from the ongoing irrigation repair and maintenance works, she said they have formulated an allocation scheme for the distribution of irrigation supplies during the predicted El Niño period.

She said they have initially identified the farm areas that would be given priority for the irrigation supplies.

“Some farm areas that are previously getting irrigation supplies on a 24-hour basis will be limited to just eight hours so we can serve other areas that need more supplies,” Lozano explained.

As part of their mitigation plan, she said they have started advising farmers in remote areas and those quite far from the irrigation systems to plant alternative crops like vegetables instead of palay to avoid crop losses.

In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the El Niño will likely hit various parts of the country beginning October and would last until May 2013.
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 the area to dry up for several months, destroying millions worth of agricultural crops.

It also reduced to critical levels the waters of Lake Lanao and the tributaries that run the hydroelectric plants of the National Power Corp., triggering daily rotating brownouts that lasted for as long as 15 hours in some parts of Mindanao. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)