Rice shortage looms in ComVal’s remote Laak town

LAAK, Compostela Valley  (MindaNews/ 9 December)– Rice shortage is looming in this remote town as Typhoon Pablo has devastated 2,000 hectares (ha) of rice fields in Barangay Kidawa, considered the town’s rice granary.

BLEAK FUTURE. Mary Grace Magadan, 30, and her children outside her parent’s house in Laak town in Compostela Valley province on Dec. 8, 2012, which was destroyed by Typhoon Pablo. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More
BLEAK FUTURE. Mary Grace Magadan, 30, and her children outside her parent’s house in Laak town in Compostela Valley province on Dec. 8, 2012, which was destroyed by Typhoon Pablo. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More

Jay Alvin Luardo, municipal agriculture officer, told MindaNews Saturday that it would take at least six months to rehabilitate the mud-draped rice fields.

The town has a total rice production area of around 2,500 ha, he said.

Luardo said the mud is about two to four feet deep, making it impossible for farmers to quickly replant palay (rice plant) in the flood-affected area.

Owing to this, farmers are in dire need of vegetable seeds as an alternative source of living while waiting for the mud to be scraped from their rice fields, he said.

“Vegetables are the easiest and perhaps the quickest source of income for the farmers for them to be able to feed their families,” the local agriculture chief said.

The initial estimate on damage to rice fields in Kidawa costs around P40 million, Luardo disclosed.

Records from the local disaster office showed that Typhoon Pablo has affected 17,460 households or 87,300 persons.

“This means that 95 percent of our population in all the 40 barangays is affected by the storm,” Engr. Pedrito Hibaya, local disaster head, told MindaNews.

Records also showed that 11 persons were also killed. But Hibaya clarified that only six were directly killed by the typhoon’s fury.

“They were the ones who were drowned, hit by debris or fallen trees. The rest died due to heart attacks and natural causes triggered by the typhoon,” he explained.

The initial estimate to damage on the town’s agriculture sector is around P750 million, the report added.

The town also hosts banana plantations, rubber, coconut and other high-value crops, Hibaya said.

At the town proper, several houses and government structures were totally or partially damaged, with roofs and walls seen blown away.

Trees in the surrounding mountains and along the roads were still standing, but like match sticks. “Before the storm, our surroundings look green. But now, all you can see are just the tree trunks,“ Hibaya noted.

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Need food, water and medicine

Since the town’s power lines have been toppled by strong winds, Hibaya said they are suffering from water crisis too.

He noted that the town’s water system was crippled due to lack of electricity.

The affected villagers have received initial relief assistance from the local and provincial governments and several individuals here.

“Our immediate needs are food, water and medicines,” said Hibaya, appealing to humanitarian groups.

Well-placed disaster preparedness

Of the town’s 40 barangays, Hibaya said that Barangay Kidawa was the most affected, but no fatality has been reported there even as the entire village was submerged in mud and water after Typhoon Pablo struck last Tuesday.

“They have a disaster preparedness system in place since the barangay is a flood-prone area because of the nearby river. So whenever the water level rises in the river, they know what to do and where to go,” he stressed.

The villagers have evacuated to safer grounds when the typhoon came, Hibaya said.

First time in Laak

Seventy-year old Pacita Okoka, who belongs to Tigbabawon tribe, told MindaNews that she had never experienced a typhoon’s fury in all her life.

Okoka said her 90-year old husband Graciano may have been traumatized by the impact of the typhoon.

“Whenever a bus would pass by, he would try to get a ride telling us that he wants to go home,” she added.

Her daughter, Mary Grace Magadan, also told MindaNews that her father was not acting strangely before the storm hit the area.

Magadan, a mother of three, added that her parents’ house was totally destroyed due to strong winds.

“My father was traumatized by the storm. The wind was really strong. Our house was also totally blown into pieces,” she said.

Magadan, her family and parents are temporarily staying in their neighbor’s house.

But she lamented that the owner has requested them to look for another shelter because the students, who are renting rooms, will comeback on Monday.

“This is a boarding house so aside from food, our problem now is where to move,” Magadan said.

She appealed to the government to provide temporary shelters to those who totally lost their houses as soon as possible.

Her husband Crisolo, a habal-habal driver, said the strong winds felled all their rubber trees, coconut and banana.

Even if he has a motorcycle, there are “no” passengers at these times, he lamented.

“I don’t know where to get the money to rebuild our house and to replant our crops,” he said. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)