EDITORIAL - Dry spell
(The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2016 - 9:00am

In North Cotabato, where nearly 28,000 hectares of rice have been damaged since November by the drought induced by El Niño, the provincial board has declared a state of calamity. The declaration will speed up the release of funds to mitigate the impact of the dry spell.

As important as emergency funding is the conservation of water. The nation faces what scientists have described as one of the worst El Niño spells to hit the planet. North Cotabato officials estimate the total damage to crops in the province at P238 million so far. Last week the government of Zamboanga City also declared a state of calamity due to the drought, and the local water utility began water rationing.

The drought is particularly damaging to crops in areas still recovering from powerful typhoons in the past three years. From the Visayas to Mindanao, floods and cataclysmic typhoons such as Sendong and Yolanda wiped out farms planted mostly to coconut and banana. Full recovery of the farms can take years, and it is being further delayed by the drought induced by El Niño.

The drought is also aggravating the power supply problem in Mindanao that has worsened because of the endless bombing of transmission towers. El Niño is threatening food and power supplies as well as livelihoods. The Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site already threatened by giant worms and the lack of farmers, can be damaged further by a prolonged dry spell.

Cloud seeding is never enough. National and local government units must come up with detailed plans to reduce the impact of the drought. People must also cooperate in conserving water. The rainy season is still half a year away – enough time for El Niño to wreak substantial destruction.

ATILDE BANAUE RICE TERRACES DROUGHT EL NI FROM THE VISAYAS IN NORTH COTABATO MINDANAO NORTH COTABATO SENDONG AND YOLANDA WORLD HERITAGE SITE ZAMBOANGA CITY
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