The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has enjoined local chief executives nationwide to take precautionary measures for the ongoing and adverse effects of the El Niño phenomenon.
In Memorandum Circular No. 2023-065 issued on April 25, 2023, DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. identified mitigation and preparedness measures that local officials could implement after PAGASA raise the El Niño Watch.
Characterized by warmer than average sea surface temperatures, El Niñon increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions, which could bring dry spells and droughts in some parts of the country.
Among the possible sectoral impacts of the phenomenon include a decline in crop production and increase in pests and diseases; reduced water supply, which could affect irrigation and power generation; fish kills and red tide as well as decline in fish production; increase in water borne, vector-borne and food-borne diseases; and land and soil degradation due to loss of vegetation and forest fires.
The DILG memorandum urged governors, city and municipal mayors to undertake precautionary measures including the enactment of ordinances curbing illegal connections and encouraging the prudent use of water.
Aside from allowing water utilities to conduct emergency repairs of leaks prior to securing excavation permits, the local officials are enjoined to implement and update their existing contingency plans related to El Niño, stockpile relief goods for immediate assistance, conduct massive IEC campaigns in communities on measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño.
Residents will be urged to check and immediately fix water leaks or report them to authorities; maximize rainwater harvesting and storage and set air-conditioning units between 22ºC and 25ºC.
Water conservation tips include: turning off the faucet or using a glass when brushing one’s teeth; removing all leftover food before washing dishes; storing and reusing laundry water to clean floors or flush toilets; watering plants early in the morning or late in the afternoon to minimize evaporation; cleaning one’s vehicle using a washcloth and pail instead of water hose; and using water-efficient gadgets such as high-pressure, low-volume hoses and showerheads, faucets with aerators and double-flush toilets.
The LCEs are also expected to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture on recommended measures to address El Niño effects such as conduct of cloud seeding operations, rotational irrigation scheme, reuse of wastewater from drainage canals, solar pump irrigation, use of drought-resistant and early-maturing seed varieties, maximization of production in non-threatened areas, adjustment of cropping calendar and planting patterns, and maintenance of canal embankments and paddy bunds.
The Department of Health (DOH) also recommended the strengthening of disease surveillance and control, safe water and sanitation services, health and hygiene promotion, availability of emergency health supplies and vaccines, and continued and easy access to health cate and health information.
The Bureau of Fire Protection has also been enjoined to refrain from unnecessarily drawing water from fire hydrants and limit the same only for purposes of putting out fires.