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El Niño task force bares emergency plan

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President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s task force on El Niño response has put emergency measures in place should the country face a possible water shortage as a result of the El Niño phenomenon.

In a related development, the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Thursday that the buffer stock of rice for the country is enough amid the ongoing El Niño phenomenon.

The DA is part of the government’s task force on El Niño.

In a news release on Thursday, the Natural Water Resources Board (NWRB), an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said deep wells across the country have been put on standby as a “last-recourse mitigation measure”.

The NWRB, a member of President Marcos’ Task Force El Niño, said deep wells being operated by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage (MWSS) can be temporarily activated for possible use in case of water shortage.

During the recent third meeting of the task force, NWRB officer-in-charge Ricky Arzadon also reported that they have been continuously encouraging and reminding all sectors, notably the general public, to conserve water as El Niño peaks.

On Feb. 12, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. ordered all military camp commanders to conserve water as the government ramps up its actions to mitigate and manage the impacts of El Niño.

The President also designated the following officials as task force members: Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, Secretary of Agriculture Francis Tiu Laurel Jr., Secretary of Health Teodoro Herbosa, and Secretary of National Economic and Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan.

DA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa in an interview meanwhile said: “Our buffer stock is okay and right now, the harvest season has started this March, April, until May.”

De Mesa made the assurance to the public despite the alleged irregularities in the sale of the National Food Authority’s (NFA) buffer stocks to private traders which resulted in the suspension of more than a hundred NFA officials and employees.

De Mesa said the three separate investigations regarding the NFA controversy are ongoing, with the DA expecting the results to be out as soon as possible.

“Our secretary did not give a specific timetable, but they know the importance of this investigation. So we expect, like the Ombudsman, that the results of the investigation will be out soon,” De Mesa said.

Among the NFA officials and employees which the Ombudsman ordered to be under preventive suspension were administrator Roderico Bioco and assistant administrator for operations John Robert Hermano.

The anti-graft body is probing allegations of corruption in the alleged disadvantageous sale to private traders of around 75,000 bags of rice carrying 50 kilos each.


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