Palace: Conserve water, brace for El Niño

David Lozada
Palace: Conserve water, brace for El Niño
Expecting a dry spell that could last for 9 months starting June this year, Malacañang says there is a need for discipline in 'water consumption, conservation, and usage'

MANILA, Philippines – Conserve water.

Malacañang on Sunday, May 4, echoed the call of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and state weather bureau PAGASA to be more mindful and sparing in the use of water, in anticipation of hotter and drier days ahead, thanks to El Niño.

The weather phenomenon is expected to start in June this year and may last until the first quarter of 2015 – a full 9 months.

Quoting the findings of DOST Secretary Mario Montejo, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr said that El Niño “could affect the normal rainfall pattern in the country generally resulting in reduced rainfall” and hence, increasing the possibility of droughts.

El Niño comes with unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. It can last for more than a year, adversely affecting economies at both local and global scales

“The tropical cyclone tracks are expected to shift northward and its intensity could become stronger. Concerned agencies are advised to take precautionary measures to mitigate the potential impact of this phenomenon,” Montejo also warned.

‘Conserve water’

Coloma stressed the importance of proper water use by households to prevent the possibility of water rationing.

“As of now, Filipinos need to be aware of what we’re facing. We need proper discipline in our water consumption, conservation, and usage,” Coloma added.

Based on the latest findings of the DOST, water levels in reservoirs are dipping due to low rainfall levels in the past few months. Angat Dam, the source of water of around 90% of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, is already at its critical level. 

“We hope everyone will understand the importance of being wise in our water usage. It is possible that we’ll experience tighter water supplies in the next few months due to El Niño,” Coloma said.

Food security

At the same time, Coloma gave assurances the Aquino government has been taking the proper steps to mitigate the effects of the weather phenomenon. He said that the Department of Agriculture (DA), in particular, has projects lined up to ensure food security in the country.

“Food security is a priority of the DA. In their budget in the General Appropriations Act of 2015, they have concrete programs that will ensure that the Filipino people will have enough to eat,” he added.

One of the DA’s initiatives is to diversify the sources of food supply so that when a calamity hits one province, the government can get supplies from unaffected places. “We were able to prepare by planting crops in different places across the country,” Coloma said. (READ: How climate change threatens our food security)

The DA has an irrigation and water rationing plan prepared for provinces that will be possibly hit by the weather phenomenon.

Coloma also noted that securing rice supplies and maintaining the proper price of rice remains a priority for the DA and the National Food Authority.

Stronger typhoons?

Because El Niño will change the normal rainfall patterns in the country, it is possible that typhoons – although less compared to previous years – will become more erratic. 

“We should be ready for the possibility that fewer but stronger typhoons might hit our country this year,” Coloma said.

PAGASA will be giving monthly rainfall outlooks for different parts of the country for the next 6 months.

Coloma said that national agencies and local authorities had already been advised to take the necessary steps to mitigate the possible effects of El Niño. 

“Climate change mitigation and adaptation is a priority under the Philippine Development Plan of the Aquino government,” he added. –

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