North Cotabato declares state of calamity as rats destroy P238M in crops
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato — The provincial board of North Cotabato on Tuesday, declared a province-wide state of calamity as it confirmed reports that at least 30,000 hectares of farmlands had wilted or had been damaged by rodents as the effects of the El Niño phenomenon spread in Mindanao.
Cynthia Ortega, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), said the dry spell has affected all of the province’s 17 towns and this city.
Ortega said the severe weather has wilted almost all types of agricultural crops in various areas of the province and the situation could get worse as the El Niño has been seen to last until April.
Eliseo Mangliwan, North Cotabato agriculturist, said P238 million worth of crops have either been damaged or destroyed in rodent attacks resulting from the El Niño.
Mangliwan said even the more weather-resilient coconut trees have not been spared.
Coconut farmers lost a total of P115.7 million since the drought started in the last quarter of 2015, he added.
Mangliwan said estimates of agricultural losses could still increase with data coming from banana plantations.
He said the declaration of the state of calamity would pave the way for the release of the five-percent quick response fund – amounting to about P4 million – to those affected by the drought.
Mangliwan added that cloud seeding operations would be done to trigger rainfall and help boost water supply in irrigation facilities to save the remaining crops.
Roel Villanueva of the information division of the provincial agriculture office, said the provincial government has been trying to fight off rodents from farmlands.
Earlier, agriculture officials in Central Mindanao said rodents have been driven out of their burrows because of the dry spell.
Villanueva confirmed that rodents have so far destroyed more than P30 million worth of agricultural crops in at least three towns, including Kabacan – which has been placed under a state of calamity.
Twenty-one villages in Kabacan have reported rat attacks.
Villanueva said most of the crops attacked by the rodents were in vegetative stages.
As part of the anti-rodent campaign, he said Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza ordered the distribution of Zinc Phosphide to the affected areas.
Villanueva said they also rallied farmers to constantly clean their surrounding and farms to ward off the pests.
Mlang Mayor Joselito Piñol said the massive rat campaign in his town appeared to be helping.
He said while rats still attacked farms in his town, the damage was not as massive as that of nearby areas.
“It has to be a community effort,” Piñol said. SFM