Sarangani forms El Niño task force

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/03 June) — The provincial government of Sarangani has created a special task force that will spearhead preparations for the possible onslaught in the area later this year of a long dry spell or El Niño phenomenon.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon said the task force will mainly lead the formulation of strategies to mitigate the negative impact of the coming El Niño, which was foreseen to peak by the last quarter of the year.

He assigned personnel from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) and the Provincial Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office to lead the task force.

Dubbed Task Force El Niño, he said it was mandated to provide information and regular advisories to the Provincial Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council.

The governor specifically cited developments, reports and latest updates on the El Niño from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and other concerned agencies.

“We should be updated and prepared because we have a lot of farm lands in the province,” Solon said in a statement.

El Niño is a phenomenon caused by the abnormal warming of the central and eastern Pacific waters, generally manifests in a dry spell, or below normal rainfall, usually following wet conditions.

PAGASA acting administrator Vicente Malano had identified parts of Region 12 as among the most vulnerable areas in terms of the adverse impact of the coming El Niño, which was foreseen to start by July or August.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Malano said the mild El Niño will likely last for 1.5 quarters or around six to seven months at the most.

He said it could begin to peak by the month of November and might continue until March or April in 2015.

Jonathan Duhaylungsod, Sarangani provincial agriculturist, said they were still waiting for updates from the PAGASA as to when the El Niño would hit the area.

He said they are already preparing to launch information and advocacy activities among local farmers regarding the dry spell.

They are initially planning to distribute flyers from PAGASA that detailed some measures on how to mitigate the effects of the El Niño.

“We already informed our farmers in Maitum and Kiamba to immediately proceed to another cropping after their scheduled harvest (this month) to avoid the possible peak of the dry spell by October,” he said.

Sarangani was last affected by a mild El Niño in 2010 that destroyed 9,605 hectares of corn and 850 hectares of rice farmlands.

OPAG placed the damage to corn and rice crops in the area at P26.4 million and P1.2 million, respectively. (MindaNews)