Retailers, according to a dzMM radio report, have already jacked up prices of water drums and pails by as much as P20, now ranging from P90 to P100 each. Purified water, which previously cost P95 per seven liters, is sold at P100 to P105.
A report from the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Center shows the weather phenomenon, marked by high temperatures and low rainfall, has damaged 13,679 hectares of farmland, affecting 16,034 farmers.
Affected regions include MIMAROPA, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccksargen and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Rice farms sustained the biggest loss at P377.85 million from 9,860 hectares of destroyed rice lands.
This affected 7,851 farmers from the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Misamis Oriental, Davao del Sur, Cotabato and Maguindanao.
Damage to corn crops due to the early dry spell amounted to P86.42 million, with 5,686 MT of standing corn destroyed on 3,819 hectares of farm land.
About 8,183 corn farmers from the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Cotabato and Maguindanao were affected.
The Agriculture department said it has coordinated with local government units to carry out mitigating measures to help farmers.
It has also suggested repositioning pumps and engine sets for water distribution and alerted the Bureau of Soils and Water Management and the Air Force on the need for cloud seeding from March 14 to May 21.
The department has released an initial P18.3 million to regional field offices and the Air Force for the cloud seeding.
Also on Tuesday, the Manila Water Co. said it has no choice but to “severely reduce” water distribution to its over 6 million customers, in view of the low water level at La Mesa Dam as a result of a dry spell.
Geodino Carpio, chief operating officer for MWCI operations, said because of a shortage of raw water supply at La Mesa Dam, the water company has no choice but to implement service interruptions in several parts of its service areas in the east zone of Metro Manila and Rizal as well.
“We have to find ways to severely reducing pressure at a single time,” he said.
The water level at Manila Water’s La Mesa Dam plunged to below critical level over the weekend.
But the online news site Rappler said hydrologists from the weather bureau are puzzled by Manila Water’s claim, because La Mesa Dam is only a reserve source of water, as the water concessionaires are supposed to draw water from the Angat Dam, which has not reached its critical level.
Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Administrator Reynaldo Velasco told CNN Philippines, meanwhile, that he believes Manila Water has always been drawing some water from La Mesa Dam.
“I told them that’s supposed to be reserve, but they have been drawing water. That’s why it’s now on its low,” Velasco told CNN.
Manila Water’s West Zone counterpart, Maynilad, has not reported a supply problem and has even agreed to help Manila Water.
Senator Nancy Binay pointed out that the conflicting statements about a water shortage in Metro Manila have only increased public confusion.
Meanwhile, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said the government should roll out its action plan in food-growing areas before the drought is in full swing.
“A man-made disaster over a natural disaster is a double whammy that will leave less food on the table for families and less income for farmers,” Angara said.
“There are threats to agriculture in multiple fronts. Government should help farmers battle the many crises they are facing,” he added.
Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means and vice chairman of the Senate committee on finance, identified four sources of government funds which can be merged to fund El Niño mitigation measures.
These are the Calamity Fund, or what is officially called as the National Disaster Risk Management and Mitigation Fund; the budget of agriculture agencies like the National Irrigation Administration; the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund under the recently passed Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law; and the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s funds to aid distressed families.
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