inter-agency body to address impacts of El Niño
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero is proposing the creation of an
inter-agency body to study and address the impacts of El Nino on farmlands
and households, which are now experiencing water shortages.
Escudero said the inter-agency body should be composed of representatives
from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Water Resources
Board (NWRB), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Energy (DOE),
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Philippine
Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA),
Climate Change Commission, private water concessionaires, and other experts
that may be able to help the government craft an easily implementable plan
on El Nino.
“We must convene an inter-agency body to map out the situation in El
Nino-affected areas and propose viable solutions to the expected short-term,
mid-term, and long-term effects of El Nino,” said Escudero, chair of the
Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
“Water interruptions and shortages are already disrupting the day-to-day
activities of Filipinos,” he said. “The condition of waterless hospitals and
health facilities is a major source of concern as early as now.”
PAGASA has warned that this year’s El Nino event is expected to be among the
worst in history, causing 60 to 80 percent reduced rainfall until early next
year. It will affect 79 of the Philippines’ 81 provinces.
Escudero said the El Nino phenomenon is slowly transforming the issue of
reliable access to water supply, adding that there are ongoing discussions
between water concessionaries and select groups in the agricultural sector.
There are reports that farmlands in Bulacan and Pampanga will not receive
water allocation for irrigation until May next year. Parts of Zamboanga and
CARAGA have also experienced water shortages since early this year.
The NWRB has already reduced water allocation for domestic use in Metro
Manila from 41 to 36 cubic meters per second (cms) and is eyeing further
reductions of 1 cms every month until February, depending on the water level
in Angat Dam.
Angat Dam supplies potable water to Metro Manila and powers a hydro-electric
plant. The normal water level in the dam is 210 meters but it has been less
than 190 meters in the past months due to decreased rainfall.
“Something is terribly wrong in a country where an ordinary worker could not
take a bath before going to work due to El Nino, wastes hours on the road
due to gnarled vehicular traffic and arrives at his workplace without
electricity. Is this what Filipinos get for paying such huge taxes? Escudero
He said government agencies should present well-thought out contingency
measures to alleviate the difficult living conditions in the country, which
will be exacerbated by water shortages and power interruptions.
Escudero, an independent candidate for the vice-presidency, expressed
concern that the problem of insufficient water supply may fall on the
sidelines as election fever hits many government officials.
“An inter-agency body will ensure that someone is always on top of the
problem. Water is vital to our everyday life, and we cannot allow the lives
and businesses of millions of Filipinos to cease while government officials
are busy with their political plans,” he said.