The Cebu Provincial Government recently hosted a Provincial Water Summit that aims to raise awareness on the effects of El Niño and to find ways to address this weather condition.
The summit, which was organized by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), also became the venue to discuss the proposed ordinance for the creation of the Provincial Water Resources Authority.
At least 80 representatives from Cebu’s local government units (LGUs) and civil society organizations attended the activity held at the Elizabeth Hotel in Cebu City on Thursday, April 4.
PENRO Chief Rodel Bontuyan said the summit was held in line with the celebration of the World Water Day on March 22.
Baltazar Tribunalo, chief of the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) and one of the speakers, provided updates on the damage on agriculture, livestock and marine life caused by El Niño.
He also reported on the increased presence of a coral predator called crown-of-thorns starfish (locally known as dap-ag) in the 50 marine protected areas (MPAs).
As of April 4, a total of 29 LGUs submitted reports to the PDRRMO on the El Niño effects in their localities. The towns of Ginatilan, Minglanilla, Samboan and Sogod, and Carcar City already declared their respective localities under state of calamity.
Tribunalo said that corn farmers decided not to plant for the third cropping in May due to the intense dry spell.
He said corn commodity has been reported to be the most affected crop by El Niño.
With this, a total of 1,192 farmers and fishers from 17 LGUs submitted insurance claims from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation due to damages and losses.
As to the fisheries, PDRRMO recorded a significant decrease on fish catch in the province, while a fish kill in aquaculture livestock, specifically bangus, was reported in Cordova.
The fishermen also cannot spend a longer time to fish during day time, which greatly affected their source of living.
The increased presence of these coral predators were spotted in Moalboal (three MPAs), Tabogon (two), Camotes Island (eight), Bantayan Island (eight), Cordova (three), Dalaguete (three), Argao (five), Santander (one), Samboan (one), San Remigio (five), Tuburan (four), Oslob (four), Carmen (two) and Talisay City (one).
At least 350 hectares of guso, a Bisaya term of a local seaweed, were damaged amounting to P28 million.
The excessive heat also affected the livestock.
Based on the PDRRMO’s data, there were 12 swines suffered heat stroke, another four suffered pneumonia and two cattles have died. Damage was pegged at P226,000.
As to plants, there were occasional incidence of grass fires in Aloguinsan, Argao and Toledo City; high mortality of newly planted forest trees; and drying up of shrubs and other vegetations.
Water levels in some rivers as well as deep wells have also reduced by 50 percent, Tribunalo said.
He said some local government units already enforced water rationing, particularly in upland barangays.
The phenomenon has also affected the health of some individuals.
According to Tribunalo, there was an increase of dengue cases in Tabuelan and San Remegio.
He said this is probably due to containers filled with water that were left unsealed.
The Cebu Provincial Board has already declared the Province under a state of calamity.
Initially, the PDRRMO chief said P25 million of the P59 million quick response fund will be used in the proposed immediate interventions.
Of this amount, P3 million will be spent to purchase assorted seeds, rice and vegetables; another P3 million for food items; P1.1 million for the water tanks; and P1 million for the cash or food for work program.
The rest of the amount will be used to buy tilapia/bangus fingerlings, tilapia feeds, water pumps, waterpipes and plastic drums.
To date, the PDRRMO distributed 558 plastic drums, with 200-liter capacity, to Balamban, Badian, Tuburan, Carmen, Dumanjug, San Francisco, Kinatarcan Island in Sta. Fe, Dalaguete and the cities of Talisay and Toledo.
Tribunalo said the amount needed for the interventions will increase, as the need arises.
Aside from Tribunalo, other speakers during the summit were Juan Yao of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-PENRO, who talked about the Rivers for Life Program; Engr. Edgar Sibonga, the executive director of Provincial Water Resources Authority, for the Provincial Water Resource Authority and proposed Water Code ordinance; PENRO Legal Officer Rhea Yray for the Salient Provisions of the Water Code of the Philippines and The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2002; Mary Joyce Flores of the Central Visayas Center for Environmental Informatics for the Cebu Water Source Mapping and Assessment Project; and Cindelyn Pepito of the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7 on updates of the monitoring on selected rivers in Cebu Province and DENR-EMB process flow for permit applications.