Summer days in the Philippines have always been hot and humid, but this year’s summer is different. Because of the El Niño that the whole country has been experiencing since December 2015, the weather in the Philippines for the last five months has been unusually hot and dry. As a matter of fact, several provinces and municipalities in the country have already declared a State of Calamity because of the effects of El Niño. Here’s a list of things you need to know about this global phenomenon:
What Is El Niño?
El Niño is an irregular climatic change that has a complex impact on the world’s weather patterns. This phenomenon occurs due to the interaction between the water and air in the Pacific Ocean, affecting the weather system of countries near the Pacific region and the equatorial line. El Niño is characterized by unusually warm weather that may last for several months.
Characteristics of El Niño
-El Niño occurs every 2 to 9 years in the Pacific basin, affecting nearby countries.
-This climate cycle is usually followed or preceded by La Nina.
-Most of the time, it starts between the months of December and February.
– Once it occurs, El Niño typically lasts until the first half of the year. There are times, however, when this phenomenon lasts longer.
El Niño in the Philippines
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has announced last September 2015 that an impending dry spell will envelope the country from the month of December 2015 up to May 2016. But even before the announcement, the government has already been preparing ways and methods to combat or at least ease the effects of this phenomenon. Having experienced a similar dry spell in the past, the government is well aware of the consequences of this climatic cycle, especially if it gets too severe, including water and food shortage.
According to the Official Gazette of the Philippines, the government has already adopted several measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño in the country since August 2015. Some of these measures include the Quick Turn Around Scheme, rainwater harvesting, implementation of water saving technologies, and water distribution rotation. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has also advised farmers, a few months before El Niño started, to plant rice varieties that are drought-tolerant and early-maturing.
According to Secretary Kiko Pangilinan, chairman of the National Irrigation Board and Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, the government has been intent on taking proactive measures that would lessen the impact that the farmers would experience during the expected El Niño season. The government has tapped PAGASA, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, the National Water Resources Board, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), the Philippine Air Force, the National Power Corporation, and other agencies to compose the workforce in mitigating the effects of El Niño throughout the country.
During the start of the dry spell, the workforce has also implemented additional measures, including cloud seeding. Since January 2016, cloud seeding operations have been performed in various places around the country. In Northern Mindanao, cloud seeding operations were also conducted to help areas that were heavily affected by the ongoing global phenomenon, especially in Bukidnon. Just this March, lawmakers Rufus Rodriguez and Maximo Rodriguez, urged the Bureau of Soils and Water Management and the Department of Agriculture to do cloud seeding operations in the city of Cagayan de Oro, which is among the heavily affected places by El Niño in Northern Mindanao. Among the areas in CDO that were badly hit by El Niño is Lumbia, Indahag, Canitoan, Dansolihon, and San Simon.
Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification, which is done through manually spreading salt or dry ice into the upper portion of the clouds in order to simulate the precipitation process and create rain.
Apart from the cloud seeding operations, the government, through the leadership of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), has also started providing work-for-cash aid to farmers whose crops and plants were affected by the phenomenon, including the IP community. The DSWD-Region X has been implementing this program for the IP community of Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental since February 2016. Also part of the work-for-cash benefit is a family food package, each containing two cans of beef loaf, sardines, and corned beef as well as six kilos of rice. Currently, the DSWD Region X is focused on implementing their two programs, which will really help the lumads and farmers of Northern Mindanao to survive the dry season–Cash for Food Program and Cash for Work Program.