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South Cotabato’s TF EL Niño seeks calamity declaration for drought-hit towns

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, March 29 –South Cotabato’s Task Force (TF) El Niño has recommended the immediate declaration of several municipalities in the province under the state of calamity due to the continuing onslaught of the long dry spell or El Nino Phenomenon in the area.

Reynaldo Legaste, provincial agriculturist and TF El Niño chief, said Monday they issued such recommendation to allow the provincial government to finally declare the entire province under the state of calamity due to the adverse effects of the El Niño, which already destroyed more than P81 million worth of agricultural crops in the area.

Under the Local Government Code, a province may be declared under the state of calamity if two to three of its municipalities have made a similar declaration.

Such declaration would allow the affected local government units to utilize their calamity funds, which comprise five percent of their annual budgets.

Based on their latest El Niño monitoring, he said all 10 municipalities and lone city in the province were already affected by the dry spell and may now make a calamity declaration.

“On the extent of the crop damages alone, I think we have enough basis to declare the entire province under a calamity state. But to officially do that, we need our municipal governments to make their move first,” Legaste said.

He said the councils of the affected barangays in the province may also make a calamity declaration to supplement a request that they would later submit to the Sangguaniang Panlalawigan.

In a report, the province’s Task Force Niño earlier noted that the continuing dry spell already destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of palay and corn farmlands and directly affected some 8,429 farmers.

Among the areas that were hit hardest by the drought were the municipalities of Polomolok, T’boli, Tantangan, Surallah, Sto. Nino, Norala, Banga and Lake Sebu.

The damaged corn crops, which are mostly under vegetative and reproductive stages, have reached 10,775 metric tons (MT) and were valued at P33 million.

For palay, the task force listed a total damage of 19,518 metric tons and was valued at some P46.7 million.

Legaste said that aside from the drought, the province’s agricultural production was also affected by the rodent infestation that destroyed palay, corn and other high-value commercial crops in the province’s upper valley area.

“Right now, we’re continually bracing for the worst. Hopefully we can make this declaration (state of calamity) so the local government can offer more interventions using the calamity funds,” he added.(PNA) RMA/AVE

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