Zambo stands ready to confront El Niño

The city government of Zamboanga under the leadership of Mayor John Dalipe stands ready to confront or mitigate the effects of the imminent dry spell on its agriculture and fishery sector even as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on Monday announced that a “strong” El Niño is currently ongoing and may last until February this year.

Acting City Agriculturist Arben Magdugo told the press briefing last week that his office has long been preparing for the extreme weather phenomenon as early as March 2023 when the then City Agriculturist Carmencita Sanchez had activated Task Force El Niño.

He said the Task Force El Niño is composed of the different divisions and field offices of the City Agriculturist Office, whose primary task is to conduct a massive information and education campaign on the effects of El Niño among farmers and fisherfolk.

The task force is also conducting weekly monitoring of the water level in all of the city’s communal irrigation systems. As of now, the irrigations’ water level is still within normal to abundant.

“So far, there is not much effect yet on our water supply,” he said, recalling that the city suffered El Niño in 2015 that lasted for nine months affecting 1,994 farmers.

In addition, Magdugo said his office is advocating for the continued registration of local farmers, fisherfolk and farm laborers in the Registry System for Basic Sector in Agriculture (RSBSA), which serves as a targeting mechanism for the identification of beneficiaries for different agriculture-related programs and services of the government.

The agri-fishery stakeholders have also been advised to apply for crop insurance under the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp., in which farmers with three-hectare farm and below are given free registration, for financial assistance in case of destruction to crops due to calamity and extreme weather conditions like drought and floods, according to Magdugo.

Moreover, Magdugo revealed the city government has allocated the amount of P4.5 million, of which the bulk of the amount will be used to purchase pesticides and liquid fertilizers for crops that are drought resistant of those planted in less El Niño-vulnerable area.

Another P10 million funds have been earmarked for crop-shifting in less vulnerable area or for short gestation crops.

The state weather bureau on Monday, January 15, said that a “strong” El Niño is currently ongoing and may last until February this year.

In its Advisory No. 7, however, PAGASA said that the weather phenomenon will transition into a neutral state of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in June 2024. “Majority of global climate models suggest that El Niño will likely persist until the March-April-May 2024 season with a transition to ENSO-neutral in the April-May-June 2024 season,” the PAGASA advisory further read.-(Vic Larato)