The city government heeded the call to adopt measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño, which the country’s weather bureau forecasted to extend up to 2024.
In response to the memorandum issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Cordillera Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for local government units to prepare for the effects of the long dry spell, the city created an El Niño task force composed of concerned city departments led by the City DRRM Office.
In a forum on June 7, CDRRM Officer Antonette Anaban said the city is taking not only government offices to get their act together but a whole of community approach in coming up with a consolidated plan in preparation for El Niño’s expected effects.
On May 8, the office issued Memorandum Circular 29 to all barangays of the city to make its officials and residents aware of the phenomenon, widely disseminate information on its effects, and for them to also plan possible measures to take.
The CDRRMO’s committee on disaster prevention and mitigation also met with the task force recently to discuss its mitigation and prevention plan, which will be presented to the city council and serve as the basis for budget allocation.
Anaban said El Niño’s direct impacts are expected on agriculture. Since the city also has urban agriculture, it may experience decline in soil moisture availability and crop reduction due to the delayed onset of rainy season and increase in pest and crop diseases.
The city may also expect direct impact on water resources where insufficiency will be worse compared to shortage of water experienced in summer.
She also warned about fish supply in the city, since it is coming from areas where red tide during this period is expected to hit.
The city can also have an increase in cases of infectious diseases such as measles and meningitis.
For this, the City Veterinary and Agriculture Office and City Health Services Office are preparing for impacts of El Niño on human health due to possible increase of water-borne diseases such as cholera due to water scarcity and increase in vector-borne outbreaks such as malaria and dengue.
There could also be increase in food-borne diseases such as salmonellosis due to higher temperature.
There will also be a direct impact on environment, such as soil degradation due to loss of vegetation, increase in forest or landfire and the worst-case scenario is the occurrence of simultaneous fire incidents and poor air quality due to occurrences of smoke.
Anaban advised residents to take advantage of the rains, which Pagasa said may still occur during drought, by using rainwater supply.
“If possible, we should have rainwater harvesting reservoirs so that we would not deplete the supply coming from the water district, which is big help as it will give chance for water sources to recharge naturally,” Anaban said.
They have also identified major areas that have to be looked into as sites for water harvesting facilities to prevent water supply, health, and sanitation from being compromised if there is insufficient water supply.
Among the possible areas identified for the purpose are the public market, City Hall CDRRMO building, district health centers, Baguio Convention Center, schools, and parks.
The city also needs to come up with alternative sources of water in case of massive emergencies or simultaneous fire incidents.
Hotels and other accommodation facilities and entities using large volumes of water for its operations are encouraged to do their own conservation measures.
The DepEd is also expected to be ready to conduct classes through hybrid platforms and reduce exposure to heat in critical periods.
The city is also coordinating with the National Water Resources Board to address illegal deepwells whose operation has resulted to over-extraction which depletes and destroys water sources.
Among the medium and long-term plans identified are the use of more water recharging facilities; employment of permeable infrastructure to allow natural filtration; and adoption of blue and green walks.
Pagasa Chief Meteorological Specialist, Engr. Larry Esperanza, said the prevailing typhoon season is forecasted to last until November, and after which scarcity of rainfall is expected until the first part of 2024.
He said the Pagasa issued an El Niño alert in April after they monitored a sea surface temperature of 0.5 degrees Celsius which indicates ocean warming and which has since been observed towards May and this month.
He added this does not mean rains will not be experienced since the southwest monsoon at times would still dominate the weather system and rains can still be expected during the period of El Niño.
In the country, the six-month forecast of rainy season may heighten around October and November. – Hanna C. Lacsamana