Action plan against El Niño discussed

April 02, 2019
Salvador Panelo

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet discussed possible interventions to mitigate the adverse effects of the ongoing El Niño across the country that has damaged over P5 billion worth of agricultural products.

In a statement, Presidential spokesman Sal Panelo identified various proposed measures that were taken up in Monday’s cabinet meeting, among these, were the creation of a Department of Water and a Department of Disaster Resilience, and water conservation campaigns. Officials also recommended the “dredging of waterways, replacing tunnels and aqueducts, installing water tank systems in all Department of Health hospitals” and increased funding for water treatment plants as additional solutions.

The El Niño has lead to rice and corn production losses worth over P5 billion since the start of 2019, affecting 138,859 farmers across 12 regions.

“The agenda last night was with respect to the effect of the dry spell what are we going to do about it to diminish the effects of this dry spell and we discussed about the water problem, how to do something about it,” Panelo said.

To remedy the water crisis which struck Metro Manila last month, Panelo said the National Economic and Development Authority proposed an executive order to create a National Water Management Council (NWMC). The NWMC will be composed of the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) and the River Basin Control Office under the environment and natural resources department.

“This will streamline and consolidate planning and regulation of all water and river basins in the country,” Panelo said in a statement.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles first raised changes to the NWRB on March 17, saying they sought to place the agency under the Office of the President. He said they were still drafting the executive order on the proposal at that time.

Customers of water concessionaire Manila Water suffered from days-long water shortages during the first week of March. Manila Water attributed the service interruptions to the depleting supply of the La Mesa reservoir in Quezon City due to the dry spell.