Dry spell wreaking havoc to SouthCot farmers

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 Apr) – The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) advised farmers covered by its three major irrigation facilities in nearby South Cotabato province to brace for possible cuts in irrigation supplies in the coming weeks due to the worsening effects of the continuing dry spell in the area.

Engr. Orlando Tibang, Marbel-Banga River Irrigation System (RIS) chief, said the water level at the three irrigation components covered by the system is now considered critical due to the lack of rains in the area since last month.

The Marbel-Banga RIS, which is operated and maintained by NIA, covers the Marbel-I RIS, Marbel-II RIS and Banga RIS.

The three irrigation facilities serve around 6,000 hectares of farmlands in Koronadal City and nearby municipalities of Banga, Tampakan and Tantangan in South Cotabato.

“We issued an El Niño advisory to our farmers so they can prepare for some other alternatives. Right now, our irrigation supplies are continually dwindling and it might even worsen in the coming weeks,” Tibang said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo.

The official said they might be forced to cut down on their supplies to local farmers if the dry spell will continue for another week.

Some parts of South Cotabato has been experiencing below normal rainfall since last month due to the unusually intense dry weather condition.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) earlier said the intense weather, which worsened with the onset of the summer season last month, might extend until early May.

Tibang urged local farmers within the affected areas to save on their usage of irrigation supplies until the situation stabilizes later on.

“We’re also implementing some water management measures right now to cope with the situation,” he said.

Meantime, agriculture officials in the area reiterated that rice supplies in the province have remained sufficient and they expect the situation to continue in the coming months despite the rehabilitation and maintenance shutdown starting on Tuesday of the Allah RIS in Surallah town.

Allah RIS, which covers around 12,000 hectares of palay production areas in the province’s upper valley area, will close down for two months.

Reynaldo Legaste, South Cotabato provincial agriculturist, said they were earlier informed by NIA that it will proceed with the closure of the Allah RIS to facilitate its routine rehabilitation and maintenance.

Last year, a major portion of the facility was shut down by NIA for about three months to rehabilitate its critical dam facility along the Allah River and line canals that traverse three rice-producing municipalities in the area. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)