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Capitol takes action vs. El Niño

| by: Cris Lanie Delos Reyes

There is a 70% chances that the El Niño will continue on from June to August and a greater than 60% chance that it will last from September to November.

The province of Cebu is among of the provinces in the country that is affected by the dry spell.

These effects includes declining of  production of farm fields, wilting of some crops,  dried up rivers, low fish catchment, fish kill and low supply of drinking water.

Reports from the different municipalities regarding the effects of El Nino prompted Governor Hilario Davide III to initiate the 1st Water El Nino Summit.

“For now, it is not yet alarming but we will not wait for that situation to happen before we do something. Let’s ensure the future of our children. That’s why we are planning now.” Davide said during his speech.

Cebu’s demand for water is high due to the fast growing sectors in commerce, business, services, and residential. Even countryside development is dramatically increasing.

Guest speaker Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Secretary Nereus Acosta said that climate change, which affects our seasons is here to stay, however, we can go for mitigation and adaptation.

Acosta revealed that the National Government has prepared a Climate Change  Action Plan for the Philippines, which identifies the 10 most vulnerable provinces in the country that might be affected by the climate change.

According to their demographic, Cebu is part of those hotspot provinces, based on its density of population and developments.

The point of the action plan is to look on adaptation so that the assessments for vulnerability and risk will be very clear and the government can easily place its budgets and programs on these areas.

Preparation before the summit

Last week, a team was created immediately upon the governor’s initiative to conduct a mapping or survey in all the affected municipalities.

The assessments included the situations in the agricultural aspects, crops, livestock and fisheries, health, and environmental issues.

Identified sources of data during the mapping were farmers, fishermen, private water providers, clinic and hospital staffs, local government officials, and ordinary citizens.

The team was composed of representatives from Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), Provincial Veterinarian’s Office (PVO), Provincial Health Office (PHO), and Provincial Agriculturist Office (PAG). The gathered data was consolidated by the PPDO. It was then presented by PDRRM Officer Baltz Tribunalo during the summit.

“In times like this, we have to learn how to adapt on the situation. We can enforce mitigation but at the same time we have to adapt. During this time, we can plant trees and protect our environment and at the same time plant short term crops that do not consume large amounts of water. That’s what we call climate change adaptation or the capability to adapt on existing situation,” Tribunalo said.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

The Water Summit also opened the discussions on parallel strong mitigation, such as massive reforestation, conservation of resource usage, and erosion control and soil protection through tree planting.

Climate change adaptation includes rainwater harvesting, water storage and conservation techniques, construction of water cisterns, efficient irrigation systems, adjustment of planting dates and crop variety, and land management.

“If we cannot protect and sustain our ecology, we will not be able to protect and sustain other sectors of the society,” Acosta shared.

He said that there should be a balance between the protection of the environment and the development of the economy. Beyond the developments that the province would want to attain, the environment should not be sacrificed.

According to the study by the World Wide Fund (WWF), some places will soon sink due to the rising sea level.

If the effects of climate change will intensify, some parts of Cebu especially the towns resting on the shores will sink.

Atty. Chad Estella of PENRO said that everyone must be conscious in their water consumption.

Engr. Oscar Tabada, director of PAGASA Visayas, revealed that the province will experience more shortage of water supply if El Niño will extend throughout the year. If this continues, it will not just affect the agriculture sector but also the economy and the daily living of the people of Cebu.

PAGASA only recorded 34.7mm of rainwater in March, instead of collecting 62.8mm in a normal basis. In April, instead of expecting to record 47.3mm, they only got 42.4, which is clearly low and not normal.

“When we have strong rains, the water just slipped away. We must learn how to store and use our waters well,” Tabada added.

According to Tabada, the lack of rainfall explains what happened to health, agriculture and livestock conditions.  Around 70% of the water that is used every day came from rainwater.

“Let’s help protect our environment. We must plant more trees. The trees help in rainwater catchment and they are capable of storing and distributing water to rivers and creeks throughout the year little by little,” he added.

Aside from mitigation and adaptation, people must take responsibility and must be willing to take part for this cause. This can be done in three points: save, impound and prepare (SIP).