The government must prepare for an impending El Niño and its adverse impacts on various sectors, even as the state weather bureau has just declared the start of the rainy season, a leader of the House of Representatives said on Tuesday.
Deputy Speaker and Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar said she already filed House Resolution 1024 to look into possible government interventions ahead of the El Niño threat, which has a 90 percent chance of materializing this year, as its resulting severe weather conditions could impact the agriculture sector, affect essential and non-essential industries and stoke inflation.
“Apart from agriculture, water resources, power generation, health and sanitation and other sectors are likely to be impacted by El Niño, and concerned state agencies must prepare to mitigate the impacts of severe weather conditions,” said Villar.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said there is a high possibility of El Niño to develop in the coming months, which may persist up to the first quarter of 2024.
There is also a significant chance of ocean surface warming later this year, the state weather bureau has said.
Experts noted that El Niño’s impact typically causes hot and dry weather and below-normal rainfall conditions, which could have negative impacts such as dry spells and droughts in some areas of the country. It could also bring heavier-than-normal rain conditions in other areas.
Taking note of the country’s previous experience from the El Niño phenomenon that resulted in a decline in agricultural output, Villar said the farming and fishing subsectors, as well as workers’ livelihood and food security, could take a hit from dry weather.
Also, the lingering effects of El Niño added to inflation woes and this time may drive up the already elevated cost of basic goods and services, Villar added.
The World Meteorological Organization has warned that El Niño could cause “far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management, and the environment.”
DA boosts tie-ups ahead of El Niño
In a related development, the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday assured it is taking the necessary actions to prepare the agriculture and fisheries sector ahead of El Niño.
On June 1, 2023, the DA’s National El Niño Team (DA-NENT) convened partner agencies from the Food Security Group under the National El Niño Team of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NENT-NDRRMC) for its first Inter-agency Meeting to discuss the actions taken and plans of the member-agencies.
“We in the DA are doing our best in trying to allocate the resources like seeds, fertilizers, and other commodities that are necessary for the impact of the El Niño phenomenon to the farming communities in the country,” Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban said during the meeting.
The DA Field Operations Service Director and DA-NENT Chairperson U-Nichols Manalo presented the DA El Niño Mitigation and Adaptation Plan for crops, fisheries, and livestock subsectors. The plan is based on the four thematic areas of the Disaster Risk and Reduction Management (DRRM) framework, namely, prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, and rehabilitation and recovery.
The strategies identified include dissemination of information, education, and communication materials, proper water management, prepositioning of resources, crop diversification, adjustment of planting calendar, buffer stocking of inputs, promotion of short cycle and drought tolerant crops, among others.
“DA is already preparing for the worst scenario for El Niño this year. Nevertheless, we will be of course expecting to provide us regular updates on this. Sana po ay hindi naman magtuloy, but we should always prepare for the worst case scenario,” DA Assistant Secretary for Operations Arnel De Mesa said.
He also noted that not all areas in the country will be affected, thus the government initiatives could focus more on areas that will be severely hit.
De Mesa also urged the representatives from partner government agencies to facilitate easy access and sharing of information with the DA to guide planning and decision-making activities.
“With all of us working together, we shall be able to achieve more,” Panganiban, for his part, said.
The members of the DA-led Food Security Group are the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Energy (DOE), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Budget and Management (DBM), Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), Department of Finance-Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (DOF-PCIC) are also part of the group.