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Abalos orders LGUs to prepare for possible El Niño effects

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos on Wednesday ordered mayors to prepare for and mitigate the possible effects of El Niño in their areas.

This comes a day after state weather bureau PAGASA issued an El Niño alert after forecasts showed that the phenomenon may emerge in the next three months at 80% probability and may last until the first quarter of next year.

According to DILG, local government units (LGUs) should consider the following mitigation efforts:

  • Urgent enactment of ordinances curbing illegal connections and encouraging prudent water usage.
  • Allowing water concessionaires and water utilities to conduct emergency leak repairs.
  • Lifting of number coding schemes for water tankers used by concessionaires.
  • Implementing and updating existing contingency plans related to El Niño.
  • Stockpiling of relief goods (food and non-food items) for immediate relief assistance.
  • Information, education, and communication campaigns on water leaks, rainwater harvesting and storage, water conservation, and air-conditioning.

Abalos said these measures can ease the effects of El Niño on agriculture, water resources, marine resources, human health, and the environment.

“Conserving water is one of the key actions needed to be taken to mitigate effects of El Niño and as public servants, we must set an example. These precautionary steps, albeit small, can make a big difference that can affect our communities,” explained the DILG chief.

Abalos also asked mayors to work with the regional offices of the Department of Agriculture for cloud seeding, irrigation, water-saving technology, use of drought-resistant and early-maturing seed varieties, cropping calendar changes.

The DILG, meanwhile, advised the Bureau of Fire Protection to avoid unnecessarily drawing water from fire hydrants and limit it only for purposes of putting out fires.

The El Niño phenomenon is characterized by the abnormal warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and below-normal rainfall.

“Recent conditions and model forecasts indicate that El Niño may emerge in the coming season (June-July-August) at 80% probability and may persist until the first quarter of 2024. With this development, the PAGASA El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Alert and Warning System is now raised to EL NIÑO ALERT,” PAGASA said in a statement.

“When conditions are favorable for the development of El Niño within the next two months at a probability of 70% or more, an El Niño ALERT is issued,” the state weather bureau explained.

DA measures on El Niño

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said they are looking into adjusting the planting calendar, or the crops they will grow for the long dry months.

"Baka po maga-adjust tayo ng calendar o kaya maga-adjust tayo ng crop na itatanim o kaya paiignitingin and water management," said DA Director for Field Operation Services Director U-Nichols Manalo.

(Maybe we’ll adjust the calendar, the crops that we will plant, or the water management system.)

The Federation of Free Farmers Cooperative (FFFC) said the administration should also discuss its rice importation measures ahead of the start of the El Niño phenomenon. 

"Assuming umangkat sila humaba naman ang lean months, kakasya ba inaangkat nila at available supply para itawid tayo sa next harvest season?" FFFC National Manager Raul Montemayor said. 

(Assuming they will import rice and the lean months continue, will that amount last us until the next harvest season?)  —with Sundy Locus/ VAL, GMA Integrated News