Wild monkeys, driven out by drought, beg for food along Maguindanao highway
COTABATO CITY — Wild monkeys, which are normally elusive and which used to stay out of human settlements, have been showing up in Maguindanao streets and have been seen begging for food from motorists.
In the background is the thick green forest in Barangay Taviran in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, which has turned brown due to the dry spell.
Motorists would toss food such as bread and pastries to the primates, numbering about 20 at any given time, which would jump for joy upon catching the food scraps.
“They never attack humans, no incident that I heard of,” said Kagi Ali, a fresh water fish vendor at a road side in Barangay Taviran.
Kagi Ali said he has been living in the village all his life but it was only recently that the monkeys ventured into the highway.
“It was only now that we can see them along the highway. They are looking for food,” he said, adding that the monkeys might have ran out of food in the forest due to the dry spell.
A report from the Maguindanao provincial agriculture office said more than P150 million worth of corn, palay and other high value crops have been damaged by the dry spell. More than 10,000 farmers have suffered crop losses but there was no clear data as of yet on the number of forested area ravaged by the drought.
Last week, the provincial government started rationing food to affected communities – particularly in the hinterlands – following reports of hunger affecting many communities.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said reports about indigenous communities resorting to eating wild yam in South Upi town were disheartening, along with stories of a farmer committing suicide because of depression.
Called krut by the Teduray natives, the wild yam can be poisonous if not properly prepared.
“I have sent a team to extend food assistance to our IP brothers and sisters in South Upi,” Mangudadatu said.
He said residents in other affected areas would be provided food rations to help residents overcome the effects of the dry spell.
Mangudadatu said the provincial government would also use its calamity fund to help affected farmers recover in the next cropping season.
“When our farmers resort to eating wild yam, it shows that no other foods is available for them,” Mangudadatu said.
In Tulunan, North Cotabato, residents of the peace zones of Bituan, Nabundasan, Alimodian and Miatub were also leaving for other areas to look for ways to feed their families, Max Casulucan, chair of the Tulunan Municipal Peace Zones Development Council, said.
“They will dieof hunger if they don’t do anything,” Casulucan said.
He reported that for now, remaining residents have survived by eating bananas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
He said adults were not only the ones leaving.
Casulucan said close to 50 minors from the four villages recently stopped schooling to look for jobs in the nearby cities of Kidapawan, Davao and even in General Santos City so they could help feed their families.
“Education can wait. I need to help so my family could eat,” one high school student, who decided to leave too, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Tulunan Mayor Lani Candolada said the town government would use its Quick Response Funds – amounting to more than P4 million – to purchase emergency food assistance to affected communities after the Sangguniang Bayan declared a state of calamity in the entire town.
But Candolada clarified that the recipients had to participate in the food for work scheme. Each family, she said, would receive at least 10 kilos of rice for participating in the anti-rat and anti-black bug campaigns.
Candolada said the town government has also been eyeing water rationing in such villages as Maybula and Minapan, where deep wells have dried up.
In Digos City, vegetable farmers in Barangay Kapatagan have been working to save their crops.
Rosa Alfeche, one of the farmers, said she did not mind fetching water from a source more than a kilometer away for the survival of her carrot plants under the dry spell.
Vegetable dealer Jun Cabotcha said they might have to skip some markets because the drought has reduced the potential harvest of such crops as potatoes.
In Davao City, the National Food Authority has declared that Southern Mindanao has enough rice and corn supply even as tens of thousands of hectares of rice and corn farms have been damaged by the dry spell.
Virgilio Alerta, NFA-Davao provincial manager, said in Davao City alone, at least 600,000 tons of rice have been serving as buffer stock and would last until the next harvest season.
He said the rice stocks came from Vietnam and Thailand, and from local producers.
Gerry Pedrico, chief meteorologist at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (Pagasa), said this year’s dry spell has been considered one of the worst and extreme weather phenomenons experienced since the 1900s.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Southern Mindanao said that to date, 80 percent of the 6,427 hectares of corn and 5,576 of rice production areas have been wasted by the extreme heat.
This would translate to an estimated P247 million worth of yields lost, Corazon Ditarro of the DA’s Bureau of Soil and Water Management said.
Joedel Leliza, DA Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer for Southern Mindanao, said the agency has allocated P34 million for El Niño mitigation and assistance programs.
These programs include distribution of certified seeds, cloud seeding and irrigation.
“The department has allocated more or less P34 million for various interventions in hardest hit areas in the Davao Region,” Leliza said.
DA’s funding allocation for El Niño, however, does not include long-term program such as building resilient agricultural farms or drought-tolerant production farms.
On January 23, 26 and 27, the agency conducted cloud-seeding operations using 2,000 kilos of salt. Areas that benefitted from the cloud-seeding were Malungon in Sarangani; Kidapawan and Matalam in North Cotabato; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; Sulop, Sta. Maria, Kiblawan and Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental; Tampakan and Banga in South Cotabato and other parts of North Cotabato and Maguindanao. (Reports from Edwin Fernandez, Williamor Magbanua, Orlando Dinoy, Judy Quiros and Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao) SFM
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