El Niño to hit 3 of 4 provinces in Region 12

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/28 September)—Officials have cautioned farmers in the Soccsksargen region to brace for El Niño, where the dry spell is expected to intensify and rear its ugly head in three of its four provinces starting next month.

Farmers were also urged not only to plant drought-resistant crops but also to insure them for protection from losses that will be brought by the drought.

Amalia Datukan, Department of Agriculture (DA) director for Soccsksargen or Region 12, advised farmers in the area to insure their crops with the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.

“Doing such could protect farmers from losses due to El Niño,” she said.

Based on the advisory of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat—with the exception of North Cotabato—are expected to be hit by the drought.

“A mature and strong El Niño is now present in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Consensus of climate model shows that it will likely to strengthen further before the end of the year and may last until the first half of 2016,” the state weather forecaster said early this month.

“This 2015-16 El Niño event will potentially be among the four strongest events since 1950 (1972-73, 1982-83, 1997-98),” it added.

The weather bureau said the drought will also likely hit six other provinces in Mindanao, 13 in the Visayas and 25 in Luzon until the end of the year.

In South Cotabato province, Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes has called on farmers to plant drought-resistant crops in the area to avoid losses.

“They should plant root crops like sweet potatoes and cassava, among other drought-resistant plants,” Fuentes said.

The governor said they expect a milder impact of the dry spell in South Cotabato this time compared to the1998 El Niño occurrence.

There will still be rains to fall in our province in the duration of the El Niño phenomenon that is expected this time to last for nine months, she said.

Fuentes said that farmers who will be affected by the dry spell will get assistance from the provincial and national governments.

To ensure rice supply across the country during the duration of the El Niño, the national government has approved the importation of rice, the staple food of Filipinos.

The National Food Authority has announced that the country, in preparation for the onslaught of the drought, will import 750,000 metric tons of rice. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)