El Niño, rat infestations plague Cotabato provinces

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Mindanao Examiner)

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Nearly 2000 hectares of farm lands have been attacked by rats in southern Philippines and agriculture experts have blamed El Niño for the infestation that is now plaguing at least 4 towns in South Cotabato province.

And the damage to agricultural lands now runs into millions of pesos – at least P13 million worth of rice and corn crops, according to the official Philippines New Agency. The government is doing to control the rat infestation in the towns of Tampakan, Tupi, Polomolok and Tantangan which is the hardest hit by the attacks.

Justina Navarrete, the provincial agriculturist, said in Tantangan alone, an estimated 1,000 hectares of crops have been damaged. And 7 more farming villages – Pangilan, Kuyapon, Dagupan, Lower Paatan, Upper Paatan, Katidtuan, Malamote – in Kabacan town in North Cotabato province where over 600 hectares of lands were destroyed by rats searching for food. Even fruit trees and coconut farms were not spared by the rodents.

She blamed the infestation to the long dry spell brought about by El Niño. The government distributed zinc phosphate to farmers to battle the infestation, but this is simply not enough solution to eradicate the rat infestation.

Navarrete said they have also launched a food-for-work program which provides one kilo of rice to farmers for every 10 rat tails they turn in. But the problems do not stop there as black bugs and worm infestation were also reported in at least 2 more towns – Surallah and Banga in South Cotabato – and in Koronadal City and this is expected to worsen in the coming weeks because of the drought, Navarette told the news agency. It said the provinces are now under state of calamity due to infestation and dry spell.

Just this week, Zamboanga City also declared a state of calamity due to El Niño. Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco said the dry spell has affected the local water supply. Water is now being rationed in many areas in Zamboanga after the Pasonanca diversion dam reached critical level due to the dry spell.

She said the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recommended the declaration of the state of calamity to allow the Zamboanga City Water District to use its calamity to mitigate the effect of El Niño.

“Given the continuous decline in the water level, the water firm’s calamity fund could not be accessed unless a state of calamity is declared by the local government through the City Council upon the recommendation of the CDRRMC,” Climaco said.

The City Council approved this on January 12.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration reported a significant increase in sea surface temperature since April last year because of El Niño.

El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and could affect the normal rainfall pattern in the country generally resulting in reduced rainfall. Weather experts said different parts of the country may experience varying rainfall impacts.

Three new outlets of the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper are added to the growing list of Davao City dealers. (Photo by Jayson Mag-usara)

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