A WEEK after the state weather bureau declared the start of summer, Cebu City’s top official has ordered a raft of measures to secure water supply for food production, just as the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) revealed a drop in water production due to the heat.
The move comes also as a state meteorologist warned that the dry hot season could deplete Cebu’s water supply amid the increased likelihood of the occurrence of the El Niño phenomenon.
“The effect of this dry hot season, plus the possibility of El Niño, of course [result in] scarcity of water,” said Engineer Alfredo F. Quiblat Jr., chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Visayas Regional Services Division.
Quiblat thus advised the public during the Open Line Forum on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, to optimize the use of water.
In Luzon, Quiblat said, there are already reported signs of decreasing levels of water dams, which can also be expected to happen in Cebu.
“Daan na ra ba ta nagkuwang sa tubig (Cebu’s water supply is already not enough). The dry season would mean a below normal rainfall,” he said.
Quiblat said the likelihood of El Niño occurring is 55 percent or higher.
“There is a possibility of El Niño for this year sometime in July. There is already an indication based on the analysis,” Quiblat said.
El Niño makes it more likely that there will be periods of below-average rainfall, which might cause dry spells and droughts in various parts of the country. It has the potential to drastically reduce water supply, which can result in major losses in agricultural output.
The highest heat index this year, so far, was recorded at 39°C on Saturday, March 25, according to the state weather bureau in Mactan, Cebu.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama on Tuesday ordered water supply for agriculture, industrial and farm use secured to avoid damage to crops amid concern over the El Niño phenomenon.
This as farmers from the upland barangays, even now, raised fears of possible damage to their crops if the weather will not improve in the next two weeks.
The Cebu City Government presented mitigating measures on Tuesday, to fight not just the possible effects of the El Niño phenomenon, but also inflation and African swine fever (ASF).
This month, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) of the Department of Agriculture said the highly contagious disease in pigs, which does not harm human health, had been detected in Carcar City, Cebu City, Sibonga, Liloan, Tuburan and Bogo City—a contention challenged by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who has cast doubt on the BAI’s ASF testing methods and findings.
“Drought can be expected, and scarcity of water supply for agriculture, industrial and farm use must be addressed to sustain the agricultural and food security measures of the City,” said Rama in a statement Tuesday.
On the same day, Cebu City Agriculture Department (CAD) head Joelito Baclayon said the farmers can already feel the dry season, but he said there have been no reports of damage to crops from the farms in Cebu City’s upland barangays yet.
This was confirmed by Cebu City Farmers Federation president Elecio Cantano and Alliance of Cebu City Farmers Association president Casimero Pilones.
Cantano said so far their crops “are still okay,” but he is not sure what will happen if the level of heat will still be the same in the following weeks.
Pilones agreed with Cantano, adding his groups will start planning their preparations now in case the worst will come.
Baclayon said mitigating measures and assistance to the farmers are already in place, including the provision of water, hose, solar-powered pumps for the irrigation system, and fertilizer.
Baclayon said his office has an annual budget of P200 million where he will source the assistance to be given to the farmers.
State of preparedness
City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) head Harold Alcontin said Tuesday the City has three water tanker trucks which will be used to respond to areas that are in need of water.
The CDRRMO has declared a state of preparedness in Cebu City. He said his office will coordinate with the City Budget Office for the amount that the CDRRMO may use.
Alcontin said the quick response fund currently has a budget of around P100 million; however, he emphasized that he will wait for the City Budget Office to guide them on where they can possibly source the funds for the preventive measures they will implement.
In Directive 03-28-2023-01 issued Tuesday, Rama gave the following orders amid the challenges of the possible El Niño phenomenon, inflation and ASF:
CAD and Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries (DVMF), with the regional offices of the national government units operating in Cebu City, shall secure the optimum production, protection and preservation of the livestock and poultry industry;
The Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW), with national agencies, shall establish, implement and repair with urgency all farm-to-market roads;
All idle lands in the city, whether owned by the City or private individuals and corporations, shall be used for agricultural production subject to an arrangement to be entered into by the owner and farmer;
CAD and DVMF shall oversee and tabulate the whole agricultural production including the livestock, poultry and other farm products;
The City Health Department shall check and regulate all sources of water and the quality of water to keep the consuming public safe, most especially in this period of water scarcity.
MCWD water supply
Minervas Gerodias, MCWD spokesperson, told SunStar Cebu on Tuesday that the production of water at the Buhisan Dam has decreased.
Gerodias said that from its average production of 5,000 cubic meters per day, it has now experienced a 30 percent decrease.
Buhisan Dam, MCWD’s only dam, currently has an average production of 3,500 cubic meters per day.
However, MCWD also open sources from a river in Jaclupan in Talisay City, which also saw a slight decrease in average production per day.
“Since the source is a river, the volume reduced slightly also. From its usual 30,000 cubic meters per day, it is now at 25,000 cubic meters per day,” Gerodias said about the Jaclupan weir.
Pagasa’s Quiblat said water use must be optimized. This includes indoor and outdoor water usage at residences, and includes uses such as drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, watering lawns and gardens, and maintaining pools.
Pagasa advised against staying under the sun around 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and reminded the public of the importance of using sunblock and other protective gear against sun exposure to prevent possible health risks.