Dr. Elmeir Apolinario, head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO), narrated during the press briefing last Monday the pro-active and preemptive measures the city government through the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (CDRRMC) has done to mitigate the effects of El Niño and/or drought.
Dr. Apolinario stressed that as early as September 2015 the CDRRMC had conducted with stakeholders with the presence of PAG-ASA Chief Meteorologist Maribel G. Enriquez with regard to the dry spell outlook and the end of forecast period in February 2016.
Fast forward to January and February 2019, the city had experienced drought/or dry spell resulting in the receding water supply and affecting the agriculture sector. However, due to the “No El Niño” advisory issued by PAG-ASA, the request of the Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD) to declare a state of calamity was voted down.
This, Apolinario, being a member of the CDRRMC, prompted him to pose to the City Council these questions: ‘Are we not going to start working for prevention just because there was no adverse effect yet of the El Nino?” “Are we going to wait, arriving the situation wherein we don’t have any more water in the glass to drink?”
He said the CDRRMC, chaired by the mayor, convened anew on Jan 11, 2016 and it passed Resolution No. BC-01, approving the request of the ZCWD for the CDRRMC to declare and place Zamboanga City under the state of calamity during to receding water flow at the diversion weir not at critical lever and per report stated. This was concurred by the Sangguniang Panlungsod thru Resolution No. 06 dated Jan. 12, 2016.
Then, by end of May 2016 PAG-ASA issued the drought/dry spell outlook, prompting the formulation of the Contingency Plan for Drought 2016-2019, approved by CDRRMC per Resolution BC06 s. 2016 dated May 27, 2016 and SP Resolution No. 532 dated June 7, 2016.
He said it was during this time the Office of the City Agriculturist then under Dr. Disodado Palacat had formulated the short-term plan through the conduct of dialogue, meeting and El Niño Information Caravan to the farmers, procured one unit drilling rig and 24 water pumps. The plan covered livestock, fisheries and crops sectors.
The mitigating measures included total log ban, stiff implementation of regulations, fielding of forest guards, provision of livelihood projects, quick-turn-around planting, among others.
The situation likewise prompted the city government through the City Engineer’s Office to construct school buildings with rain collected and sump tanks. These kinds of school buildings have been constructed in Cabaluay, Manicahan, Tulungatung, Labuan, Vitali, Limaong and Mangusu. More are yet under construction.
Then the city procured three water tankers and 10 units water pumps, mobile filtration plant and Malaval Tunneling Pipe Line.
The medium-term plan include the construction of small water impounding dam, mobile desalination plant and office water pumping station. On top of this, the city government has also been pushing for the ZCWD to construct a big impounding dam.
Following the City Council’s declaration of Zamboanga City under the state of calamity due to El Nino as earlier declared by PAG-ASA, Dr. Apolinario visited the office of Director Angel C. Enriquez of the Department of Agriculture Bureau of Soils and Water Management, and discussed matters relative to the effects of weak El Niño.
He said an assessment evaluation team was in the city last March 12 to do activities preparatory to cloud seeding. He added a private aircraft will be made available to the city to be contracted for by ZCWD and LGU for cloud seeding purposes.
According to Apolinario, Regions 2, 6, 7 and 12 have had pending request for agriculture sector cloud seeding but considering Zamboanga City was able to proactively respond prior to onset of weak El Niño most of the farmer growers decided to wait it out until rainy season to set in to cultivate and grow their agricultural products. Hence, damage was limited to 80 hectares as of Feb. 27, 2019.
With the declaration of state of calamity, Apolinario said the Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a price freeze advisory on 11kg LPG and kerosene in Zamboanga City effective March 5 and within 15 days upon declaration. The DOE warned violators of prison term for one year to 10 years or a fine ranging from P5,000 to one million pesos or both at the discretion of the court.-(Vic Larato)