El Niño wreaking havoc in Zamboanga
ZAMBOANGA CITY – In October last year, the Department of Agriculture said Western Mindanao in southern Philippines is still free from the effects of global weather phenomenon called El Niño, but it continues to monitor the oceanic and atmospheric conditions that could bring dry spell in the region.
And three months later, Zamboanga City has declared a state of calamity after its water level in the dam continues to go down and is now in critical level forcing the local water utility firm to enforce ration in many villages.
El Niño is finally wreaking havoc in Zamboanga where mercury rises above its normal line throughout the day at 37 degrees, at least for now.
Evelyn Academia, of the Regional Operations Division of the Department of Agriculture, said the weather phenomenon is expected to begin in October, but so far there have been no reports of severe dry spell in Mindanao that would affect rice farmers.
“So far, we are still experiencing rainfalls, although we expect El Niño to begin this October and probably until January next year and so we are closely monitoring the weather conditions, but we are below normal condition now though we cannot feel it because of the continued rainfalls in the past weeks,” she said this in October and true to her words, El Niño is here.
This was also confirmed by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration which reported a significant increase in sea surface temperature since April last year.
El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and could affect the normal rainfall pattern in the country generally resulting in reduced rainfall.
Weather experts said different parts of the country may experience varying rainfall impacts.
Edgar Tabal, of the Rice Program Division of the Department of Agriculture, said other areas in the country may be reeling from the effects of warm weather. He said there are at least 120,000 hectares of rice farms and over 136,000 hectares of lands planted with maize in western Mindanao, aside from coconut plantations which can withstand the effects of El Niño, but coconut scale insects.
Western Mindanao contributes little to the rice production in the region. The provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani in central Mindanao is considered as the rice granary in southern Philippines.
The Zamboanga mayor urged residents to conserve not only water, but electricity as well, because the Mindanao grid is also reliant on hydro energy.
“As the water level at the Pasonanca diversion dam has reached critical level due to the dry spell, the City Council during its maiden session Tuesday approved the declaration of Zamboanga City under a state of calamity,” Climaco said.
She said the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council recommended the declaration of the state of calamity to allow the Zamboanga City Water District to use its calamity to mitigate the effect of El Niño.
“Given the continuous decline in the water level, the water firm’s calamity fund could not 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.