ZAMBOANGA CITY has declared a state of calamity after the water level in the Pasonanca diversion dam continued to drop to critical levels, prompting the local water utility firm to enforce a rationing of supply to many villages.
This is the result of the El Niño dry spell, which has been wreaking havoc in Zamboanga City, pushing temperatures up to a higher-than-normal 37 degrees.
Mayor Beng Climaco said the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) recommended that the city be placed under a state of calamity to allow the use of the city water district’s calamity fund to mitigate the effects of El Niño.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the CDRMMC proposal. The city’s calamity status will remain until the effects of the early dry spell in the region are addressed effectively.
Climaco urged residents to conserve not only water, but electricity as well, with the Mindanao grid being reliant on hydro energy for its power supply.
“Given the continuous decline in the water level, the water firm’s calamity fund cannot be accessed unless a state of calamity is declared by the local government through the City Council, upon the recommendation of the CDRRMC,” Climaco said.
In October last year, the Department of Agriculture said Western Mindanao was still free from the effects of El Niño.
Evelyn Academia of the Department of Agriculture of the Regional Operations Division, said the weather phenomenon was expected to begin that month, but no reports of any such severe dry spell in Mindanao had been recorded.
But El Niño began inflicting damage on Zamboanga three months later.
El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, disrupting the normal rainfall pattern in the areas.
Weather experts said different parts of the country experience varying degrees of the impact of the abnormal weather phenomenon.
Edgar Tabal, of the Rice Program Division of the Department of Agriculture, said other areas in the country may reel from the effects of warm weather – there are at least 120,000 hectares of rice farms and more than 136,000 hectares of corn fields in western Mindanao. In other areas, coconut plantations can withstand the effects of El Niño, but may not be spared by coconut scale infestations.
Western Mindanao contributes little to the rice production in the region. The provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani in central Mindanao are considered the rice granary of southern Philippines.