GenSan declares state of calamity

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TO prevent further damage brought about by long drought, General Santos City placed 14 of its villages under the state of calamity.

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City Administrator Arnel Zapatos said that the calamity status covers only 14 agricultural villages in the city that were heavily damaged by the long dry spell as a result of the El Niño, based on assessment of the City Agriculture Office (CAO).

General Santos city has 26 villages, almost half of which are agriculture-based areas.

CAO’s Merlinda Donasco explained that the government can only declare a state of calamity for a certain region if the damage inflicted on agricultural land area is 20 percent or higher.

“This is the reason why we cannot declare a state of calamity for the entire GenSan because we have observed that only a few barangay were significantly affected by El Niño,” Donasco clarified.

She said that while these 14 villages fell short of the requisite 20 percent agricultural yields damage, the state of calamity was declared anyway to prevent further damage.

Although a highly urbanized city, some parts of General Santos are devoted to agriculture. Over the past several weeks, the city consistently registered high temperatures with a peak record of 40 degrees centigrade.

The members of Sangguniang Panlungsod (Provincial Board) for past few weeks had been urging the CAO to declare General Santos City under a state of calamity because of the pervading heat. The CAO only recently came out with a report suggesting that only some parts of the areas be placed under the state of calamity.

To address the situation, the city government will use the 30 percent calamity fund of the City Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) to help the farmers and fisherfolk. Provision of livestock and other agricultural aids were included as among the assistance the city government would give to residents in the affected areas.

Rebecca Magante, head of the City Social Welfare and Development Office, suggested that affected farmers and agricultural workers should engage in a cash-for-work program so that they can receive the prompt assistance needed.

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