El Niño impact heats up early, drought in 22 provinces seen

The Agriculture department and other government agencies have stepped up mitigation projects and programs as 22 provinces are expected to experience drought in April due to El Niño. 

READ: Early El Niño onset feared

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said their agency has drafted a Niño mitigation and adaptation plan designed to lessen the impact of drought to the agriculture sector and restore productive capacity for the next cropping season in the affected areas.

The Agriculture department has created a national El Niño task force to monitor and coordinate various efforts to mitigate the effects of El Niño not only with its attached agencies and bureaus, but also with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Piñol appealed to affected farmers to come forward to report damage and losses on their crops to their local governments’ agriculturists, who will relay the information to their regional office for the provision of assistance.

The Agriculture department is also eyeing cloud seeding operations in some parts of Mindanao.

According to Milagros Casis, the department’s regional director, they are preparing for at least 40 rounds of cloud seeding operations in Mindanao and Luzon this month.

Arnulfo Villaruz, Cotabato City’s provincial disaster risk reduction and management council operation officer, said the El Niño-related damage to the agriculture sector had already reached P470 million with 8,500 affected farmers in 13 towns in Kidapawan City.

Ana Liza Solis of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section said drought was affecting Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Maguindanao, Cebu and even Ilocos Norte.

READ: El Niño: State of calamity in Zambo City

The dry spell will be experienced in Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Ilocos Sur and La Union in March.

According to Solis, the drought-hit areas could reach 22 in April.

The weather bureau has told the public to brace for a longer dry season due to El Niño.

The Agriculture department gave the assurance that they had “readily available interventions,” such as the provision of high quality drought-tolerant varieties of rice, corn and high value crops, advisory to farmers to plant early maturing or short gestation crops, and provision of production and recovery loans. 

As far a the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is concerned, Secretary Roy Cimatu has ordered all 16 regional directors to stay alert for forest or wild fires, come up with a region-wide assessment and update of forest protection plans, and prioritize vulnerable sites within the protected areas and those that have been rehabilitated under the enhanced national greening program.

On the other hand, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director Eduardo Gongona told the Manila Standard that part of their interventions were the provision of input assistance such as pumps, livelihood assistance and available fish health laboratory services.

He fears for a fish kill because of the poor water supply, high water temperatures and dissolved oxygen depletion, depletion of fish catch, low supply of fingerling and even red tide frequency brought about by El Niño in the affected areas.

READ: Manila Water limits supply

He advised the aquaculture sector to reinforce their dikes for increased water holding and fish farmers to observe proper stocking and avoid overfeeding the fish.

Local Water Utilities Administration chief Jeci Lapus said Mindanao had been experiencing the impact of El Niño since January.

“Actually, Metro Manila is also reeling from water interruptions,” he said.

He called on the DENR to draw measures to  impound rainwater at the watersheds, and the Department of Public Works and Highways to implement flood control projects in the mountainous regions.

“A dam is an investment,” he said, adding based on the World Water Forum, the Philippines would be faced with a water crisis by 2040.

Danilo Flores, Pagasa hydrologist, said according to the National Water Resources Board, the major dams in Luzon were still within their normal water elevation.

“Angat Dam [which supplies 97 percent of the water to Metro Manila] is still okay as well as La Mesa Dam,” he said.

Topics: Department of Agriculture , El Niño , Emmanuel Piñol , National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council , Milagros Casis
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