MALACAÑANG on Thursday advised the public to brace for what could be the hottest and longest summer season next year because of El Niño.
This year’s episode may be worse than that which hit the country in 1997.
The dry spell has already affected 32 provinces—Isabela, Aurora, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Quezon, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Romblon, Albay, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Southern Leyte , Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Southern Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Maguindanao and Sulu.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino 3rd held a special Cabinet discuss preparations for the weather disturbance.
“Preparations are in place to deal with the worst possible El Niño scenario. The full effect of the current El Niño phenomenon will be felt in February and March in 2016 when the entire country is projected to get only 20 percent to 30 percent of normal rainfall,” Coloma said.
An abnormally low rainfall would dry up dams and other reservoirs that would lead to low farm outputs.
Coloma said the Department of Science and Technology projected the “worst case scenario” would be that it may “potentially exceed the most severe El Niño conditions experienced in 1997 and 1998.”
“President Aquino directed the Cabinet to exert concerted efforts to mitigate the impact of El Niño and to prioritize the adequate supply of food and potable water; stable power supply; minimize health risks to citizens; and fire prevention due to increased humidity,” the Palace official said.
According to him, the effects of the dry spell was somehow mitigated by Typhoon Lando that hit the country in October.
“Malaki ang naidagdag nito doon sa water supplies, especially doon sa water supply para sa Metro Manila, at doon sa mga areas na dinaanan nito ay na-mitigate din ‘yung possible effects ng temperature at ‘yung dry spell dahil nga doon sa pagbuhos ng ulan, pagbabaha (The typhoon improved the water supply for Metro Manila as well as in other areas where the typhoon passed),” he explained.
Coloma said the Department of Agriculture was directed to increase its buffer stock of rice through importation and to provide necessary support and assistance to farmers, fisherfolk, forest workers and other vulnerable sectors through the distribution of planting materials, implementation of cash-for-work program and the building of Farm-to-Market Roads, Small Water Impounding Projects and other rural infrastructure.
On the other hand, the National Water Resources Board is coordinating efforts with concerned government units to heighten water conservation efforts and to construct additional water catchment areas as well as water, sanitation and hygiene facilities nationwide.
Meanwhile, the Department of Energy was instructed to intensify the enforcement of interruptible load program, deploy modular generation sets especially in Mindanao and expand the energy efficiency conservation program to lessen forced power outages.
The Department of Health will undertake immunization for the elderly, provide psychotropic drugs and anti-fungal medicines and extend additional support through Philhealth, public hospitals and health units.
Likewise, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Bureau of Fire Protection will acquire additional fire-fighting equipment and will work closely with the local government units to ramp up information and advocacy campaigns on fire safety and prevention.
“The President is calling upon the citizenry to cooperate fully with government in the spirit of Bayanihan to deal adequately with the challenges posed by El Niño,” Coloma said.
Earlier reports indicated that the weather phenomenon that began this year could be one of the strongest in 65 years, citing US government scientists.
The last El Niño that happened five years ago triggered monsoons in Southeast Asia, droughts in the Philippines, southern Australia and Ecuador; blizzards in the United States; heat waves in Brazil; and killer floods in Mexico.
JOEL M. SY EGCO