Over P96M in El Niño budget requested

Over P96M in El Niño budget requested
Photo by Yans Baroy

THE Cebu City Government’s executive department has requested the council to approve a budget of P96.94 million for El Niño preparedness and response during a special online session on Wednesday, March 27, 2024.

However, the City Council deferred the budget’s approval, saying it needs further discussion.

In the same session, the council placed 28 mountain barangays under state of calamity due to the adverse impact of the weather phenomenon El Niño.

The council acknowledged the need to help 506 farmers tilling 115 hectares of lands in these villages.

City City Agriculturist Joelito Baclayon said the barangays are Budlaan, Binaliw, Paril, Taptap, Pulangbato, Mabini, Malubog, Agsungot, Guba, Lusaran, Adlaon, Cambinocot, Pamutan, Sirao, Sapangdaku, Toong, Buhisan, Pung-ol Sibugay, Babag, Sudlon 1, Sudlon 2, Bonbon, Sinsin, Kalunasan, Buot, Tagbao, Busay and Tabunan.

Soil cracks

City Councilor Joel Garganera, who sponsored the resolution during the special session, said based on the report of the City Agriculture Department, the Butuanon River upstream and Cotcot-Lusaran have experienced reduced stream flows due to less rainfall, and at least 50 percent of farms have shown presence of soil cracks due to lack of water.

In a text message to SunStar Cebu, Baclayon clarified that El Niño affects 37 barangays in the city. However, mountain barangays are receiving greater focus due to their concentration of farms.

Garganera said during the session that El Niño’s impact extends beyond the uplands, with barangays like Talamban, Lahug and Guadalupe, known for hog raising, also experiencing its effects.

The approved resolution allows necessary expenditures for critical, urgent, and appropriate measures to mitigate the ill impacts of El Niño to be charged to the 2024 quick response fund of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).

However, the CDRRMO cannot still use the fund as the City Council still has to approve its annual investment plan (AIP) for its LDRRMF.

Proposed budget

Garganera, chairman of the committee on environment, presented CDRRMO’s AIP during the special session. The resolution approves the Annual Investment Plan (AIP) of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

The AIP covers agriculture expenditures: P80 million (purchase of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, supplies, tools and equipment, and conduct of information campaign); health expenditures: P10 million (purchase of vaccines, drugs, and medicine for waterborne diseases, heat-related illnesses, and other supplies); and water sanitation and hygiene expenses: P2.74 million (procurement of a reverse osmosis water filtration system).

Included also in the AIP are the budget for disaster response operations: P3 million (purchase of demolition/breaching tools, supplies, materials, and personal protective equipment); and information technology solutions: P1.2 million (two-year subscription of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite-based internet connectivity, and equipment). LEO offers solutions to deliver internet access to remote or underserved areas where traditional ground-based infrastructure like cables or cell towers may be impossible or impractical to build.

Councilors raise concerns

Councilor Nestor Archival questioned the necessity of the allocation for agricultural expenditures, arguing that the primary issue stemming from El Niño is water scarcity.

“If we are going to give seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, these will be wasted because in farming the basic need is water,” he said.

Archival also asked Garganera if the budget for procuring farm supplies had already been used and distributed to the farmers.

Garganera said the amount remains unused.

Agreeing to Archival’s opinion, Councilor Phillip Zafra suggested to the City prioritize purchasing materials to help conserve water, such as hoses, barrels, pumps and water trucks.

Councilor Noel Wenceslao asked representatives from the agriculture department and city disaster office to further explain the proposed budget.

For her part, Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera questioned the allocation of only P2.7 million for the reverse osmosis filtration system, despite its importance for addressing water supply issues.

Pesquera also questioned the need to buy demolition/breaching tools and subscribe to LEO in response to the El Niño phenomenon.

The councilor also asked if the personal protective equipment (PPE) is similar to the PPEs used during the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that the City still has several stocks.

Garganera said the PPE is not for any respiratory-related diseases, but intended for agriculture use.

Pesquera suggested that the CDRRMO re-study its proposed budget.

Garganera moved to defer the budget approval and called for an executive session, which was seconded by Pesquera. The session is scheduled for Tuesday, April 2, at 1 p.m. / AML, JJL


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