April 21, 2024

t has been over a month now that we have been reading complaints from netizens on the shortage of water supply in some of the franchise areas of the Baguio Water District.
So it is with other urban areas in the Cordillera.
While agencies reassure that steps are being taken to address this concern, it is almost in the same breath that warnings are aired that the situation can get worse with the onset of the El Niño phenomenon.
The Pagasa has raised the El Niño warning system to alert level early enough. Now residents are thirsty, so to speak, to hear and see proactive measures being put in place to mitigate the impact of this weather phenomenon.
Are the plans now in place?
In Baguio and nearby La Trinidad, Benguet alone, the concerned LGUs have neither convened nor reactivated their respective El Niño task forces despite the fact that thousands of their constituents stand to be greatly affected, including socio-economic activities in these two areas.
Compounding this feeling of dissatisfaction by many residents on ample water supply, there is the exasperation over the perception that the water demands of big establishments take priority over household needs, giving tourists staying in hotels the impression there is no water supply problem in this mountain resort.
If this perceived skewed ratio of supply of water between big establishments and the greater populace of households is true, then it is indeed an unfair situation.
Water stock becomes of even more prime importance at all times due to the possibilities of fire destroying lives and properties.
Incidents of structural fires in Baguio and other urban areas in the region such as the capital town of Bontoc, Mountain Province highlight the importance of ample water supply for the various Bureau of Fire Protection offices, including private water delivery establishments that augment the BFP during fire incidents.
There are also forest fires to speak of. In such dry weather conditions, the probability of forest fires becomes greater, which can spread or affect nearby populaces.
The long-term impacts of El Niño are unquantifiable and immeasurable. This is reason enough why each LGU in the Cordillera must convene or reactivate their respective task forces to prepare for the disastrous effects of the dry spell in the months of July to September, especially since this dry spell could last until early next year.
On top of potable water considerations, it must be remembered the Cordillera plays a critical role in keeping the economic stability of many parts of the country.
For one, the Cordillera is the watershed cradle of the north. Many lowland areas depend on the irrigation supplied by the headwaters of these highlands. This agricultural aspect plays a crucial role in the socio-economic activities of many LGUs in the lowlands, as water supply for major irrigation systems in Pangasinan up to some parts of Central Luzon come from the river systems in the region.
The Cordillera also plays about 80 percent of the vegetable needs of the country. A drought would result in a scarcity of vegetable products and higher prices of whatever crops will be available.
Urgently worrisome is that the El Niño seems to have hit the region earlier than projected by Pagasa as the water levels in major dams in the region continue to decrease, a serious indication the dry spell is already here.
Are the concerned LGUs ready with their plans?
We laud the national government for its proactive approach by reconstituting the national El Niño Task Force in res-ponse to the President’s “whole of the nation” approach to prepare for the impacts of the dry spell.
The task force in preparation for the effects of the El Niño has posted rehabilitation plans to ensure affected sectors can get back on their feet in record time.
Concerned agencies such as the departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture, and the Interior and Local Government must now be aggressive in their information education campaign highlighting the value of conserving water and adoption of other water saving practices.
More importantly, task forces at the local level must as soon be reactivated to help the national government in ensuring food security for millions of Filipinos should the dry spell linger until next year.