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State of Calamity: El Niño’s Impact on Three Mindanao Towns

KORONADAL CITY, SOCCSKSARGEN, Philippines — Three municipalities in Mindanao are now under a state of calamity due to the adverse effects of the El Niño weather pattern on their agriculture-based economies.

The local administrations of Paglat and Datu Piang in Maguindanao del Sur province, along with Surallah town in South Cotabato province, have declared a state of calamity in response to the prolonged dry spell that has devastated farms and disrupted irrigation systems.

On Monday, the Surallah municipal council endorsed the declaration following a recommendation from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC). The town has suffered losses amounting to at least P71.8 million across crops, fisheries, and livestock.

The Surallah municipal agriculture office reported on March 31 that 1,178 farmers, managing nearly 1,000 hectares dedicated to crops and fishery, were impacted by the ongoing dry spell. This situation prompted nine barangay local governments to declare a state of calamity earlier, citing significant losses in agriculture and livestock.

Surallah Mayor Pedro Matinong Jr. expressed approval of the town-wide calamity declaration, noting that it enables the local government to utilize its calamity fund to alleviate the dry spell’s impact on the agriculture sector.

In response, South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo promised assistance to affected farmers, acknowledging that the provincial government had anticipated such challenges due to the dry spell.

Irrigation dams across the province are facing depletion as a result of intense heat and prolonged drought. The primary water source for this irrigation network is the Allah River, which flows through several towns including Lake Sebu, Surallah, Sto. Niño, Norala in South Cotabato, and Isulan and Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat, ultimately draining into the Maguindanao marshland.

In response to the crisis, the municipal government of Datu Piang in Maguindanao del Sur declared a state of calamity on April 5 due to the impacts of El Niño. Mayor Victor Samama highlighted the dire situation, mentioning that water sources are drying up, necessitating the provision of water supply to constituents with the assistance of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

To address immediate needs, Mayor Samama authorized the distribution of emergency food relief to affected residents in villages such as Reina Regente, Balong, Alonganan, and Liong. Approximately 800 families have already received relief packages. While an official damage assessment report from Datu Piang MDRRMC was pending as of Wednesday, many farmers reported significant reductions in their harvests, often down to half of their usual yields.

Another area feeling the brunt of the dry spell is Paglat in Maguindanao del Sur, where a state of calamity was declared on April 4, accompanied by a 15-day price freeze until April 18.

The severity of the heatwave induced by El Niño prompted the suspension of all in-person classes across all levels in Maguindanao del Sur from April 8 to April 22, ensuring the safety and well-being of students amidst challenging environmental conditions.


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