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Food security amid El Niño

Manila Standard

The country is expected to sizzle in the coming weeks with temperatures rising to as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Metro Manila and Northern Luzon due to the impact of the El Niño phenomenon.

El Niño is now exhaling its hissing heat – as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Metro Manila and northern Luzon – with weather authorities saying high temperatures would prevail despite the northeast monsoon.

El Niño task force spokesman Joey Villarama said as early as last month “we were already experiencing a strong and mature El Niño (and) there is no quantitative measure of what a strong and mature El Niño is, but let’s say it should be cold now, but it’s already quite warm.”

It is a source of comfort the government is on a tight watch over food prices, water, and power supply as it anticipates the El Niño to affect more provinces by the end of this month.

Villarama has told a news forum 41 provinces are currently affected by the weather phenomenon and 10 more may be added to the list before March.

In Western Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula alone, the government has monitored P151 million in losses in rice and corn.

Of the 41 provinces, 17 are currently experiencing dry conditions, 10 under dry spell, and 14 are experiencing drought.

This is where the government’s fiscal measures will come in.

It is also comforting the Department of Health is monitoring water-borne and vector-driven diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, dengue, and chikungunya – but none thus far has been recorded.

Officials have reported significant damage to rice and corn crops in Regions 6 (Western Visayas) and 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), totaling around P151 million but underlined that some 4,000 farmers in these regions have received assistance.

Beneficiaries got “qualitative support” like heat-tolerant seeds for farmers, social protection for domestic animals and ongoing efforts to repair irrigation canals.

The Task Force has its focus on monitoring food security, water supply, power supply, health concerns and potential price increases as part of directives from President Marcos, since the extreme heat could spawn health concerns, especially waterborne diseases due to inadequate supply of clean water supply.

We are one with officials who stress the importance of monitoring vulnerable populations, like children and senior citizens, for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and skin problems.

We are also reading the bulletin board of PAGASA which says 41 of the country’s 82 provinces may experience drought conditions when the impact of the El Niño phenomenon reaches its peak in April or May.

State seismologists said the strong and mature El Niño would continue through this month but most global climate models see the phenomenon persisting into the March-May season.

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