April 19, 2023
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has ordered the creation of a government team that would focus on mitigating the impact of the looming El Niño phenomenon, Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) said Tuesday.
Nepomuceno said the president issued the directive during a meeting with the OCD in Malacañang.
“He wanted us to ensure a whole-of-government approach through the mechanisms of the NDRRMC [National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council]. He specifically instructed us to form an El Niño team,” Nepomuceno said in a briefing, speaking a mix of English and Filipino.
“His instruction was for us to make sure that we would have long-term processes that are protocol-based and scientific. Of course, it’s better for us to be prepared,” he added.
Marcos also wants the government, particularly the Department of Health, to focus on illnesses that people usually get during El Niño.
Nepomuceno added that the president would want his administration to prepare for the possible water shortage due to El Niño and come up with a public awareness campaign to urge the public to conserve water.
Ensuring sufficient irrigation
For its part, the acting chief of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Eduardo Guillen, said his agency had formulated short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to the drought expected to hit the country in the next months.
“In fact, we have what is called a cropping calendar which we use to plan which areas to irrigate. And in this case, we will prioritize those areas for rice planting near the [water] source,” Guillen said in the same briefing.
“This will be done in close coordination with the DA [Department of Agriculture] so we can offset the shortage [of water] during the dry season in those areas for planting. We will concentrate on hybrid rice because it produces twice the output during the dry season,” he added.
For planting areas that are far from the water source, Guillen said the NIA had advised farmers to concentrate on high-value crops.
“What our president wants is for us to extend the right and timely assistance to farmers,” Guillen said.
For a long-term solution, Guillen said the president would want a convergence effort between NIA and the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to address the challenge of managing water resources, especially during the rainy season.
“We can augment the funds of the NIA. Second, we can cooperate with other agencies like the DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways]. As the president said, there should be a paradigm shift in flood control and water management,” Guillen said.
“The most effective flood control project is water management. This means the construction of impounding dams, small river impounding projects. On the part of NIA, maybe we can explore constructing high dams. Maybe we can also look into that,” he added.