OVERCAST skies and strong winds continue to prevail in Southern Mindanao and the rest of Visayas and Mindanao as the northeast monsoon continues to affect the country.

An advisory from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), the country's weather bureau, strongly discouraged small fishing and seaport vessels from venturing into sea due to the strong rough waters throughout the country.

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Wave heights are expected to range from three to 5.5 meters while winds are blowing at 55 to 71 kilometers per hour in the seaboards of Southern Mindanao.

Despite the seemingly rainy and cold weather, Pagasa reiterated the onslaught of the El Nino phenomenon for the past six months until the middle of the year.

Below average rainfall has been recorded by the weather bureau in most provinces of the country, including Southern Mindanao which has been categorized as "moderately vulnerable" to the phenomenon.

Farmers and other stakeholders of the agricultural sector have already raised alarm over the adverse effects of the phenomenon.

Southern Mindanao alone has experienced below average rainfall since September last year, while the provinces of Capiz, Benguet, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Batangas, Aurora, Quezon, Marinduque, Mindoro, Romblon, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Northern Samar, Aklan, Guimaras, Biliran, South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat have experienced below average rainfall since August last year.

The Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, implemented the El Nino Mitigation Program that will focus on irrigation and water availability, which would involve applying different irrigation technologies and cloud seeding operations; and production support, which means making available farm inputs appropriate for prolonged dry and drought agro-climatic conditions. (CPM)