SouthCot braces for El Nino

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 May) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is set to convene the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to discuss the necessary preparations for the possible onslaught in the area later this year of the predicted long dry spell or El Nino phenomenon.

Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Wednesday she has called the attention of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and other concerned local government offices to start formulating their mitigations plans for the El Nino, which was foreseen to hit the area by the month of October.

“Based on the initial projections, the coming El Nino will be quite intense so we really need to prepare early to properly mitigate its potential impact,” she said.

The governor said they will initially prioritize the agriculture sector, which was hit hardest in previous droughts that had affected the province, for the implementation of the mitigation measures.

She said alternative programs specifically need to be in place for farmers in areas that would be directly affected by the dry spell.

Fuentes said the local government will coordinate with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority to ensure the availability of enough food supplies, especially rice, during the predicted calamity.

She urged residents, especially those situated in the upland areas, to start planting food crops in suitable sites like those near the river banks to ensure that there will be available supplies in case a shortage will happen during the drought.

She cited crops like ube, sweet and white potato, cassava, banana and other crops that could thrive in dry periods or climate.

“If the El Nino will come as predicted from October to January next year, it means a longer dry period for our area since we usually experience reduced or low rainfall and intense warm weather from January to May. That is primarily bad news for our farming sector and food production,” she said.

In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said the El Niño will likely hit various parts of the country later this year and would last until early 2015.

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.

Mild El Niños hit the province in 2010 and 2012, causing farmlands in the area to dry up for several months and destroyed millions worth of agricultural crops.

Provincial agriculturist Francisco Domingo said he has scheduled a series of meetings with the agriculture officers and members of the agriculture and fisheries councils of the province’s 10 towns and lone city to discuss the preparations for the coming drought.

He earlier met with personnel from the DA’s Bureau of Soil and Water Management to initially discuss the possibility of conducting cloud-seeding operations in case the El Nino will hit the area.

“We will initially propose for the allocation of counterpart funds to facilitate the conduct of the cloud-seeding operations,” he said.