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El Niño damages P3-b crops

THE El Niño has already damaged more than P3 billion in the agricultural sector as of August, the Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday.

Data from DA showed that damage to rice, corn, high value crops and livestock sector reached P3.3 billion, affecting 65,855 farmers nationwide. This involves 112,387 hectares of corn of which 36,869 hectares have no chance of recovery.

Losses in corn alone has already amounted to P2.21 billiona, the department said.

The prolonged dry spell likewise affected 30,665 hectares of rice nationwide valued at P1.09 billion while damage to high value crops amounted to P19 million.

DA said to mitigate the impacts of El Niño on the agriculture sector, it has already conducted cloud seeding operations and distributed pump and engine sets and open source pumps.

The agency also distributed high quality seeds for rice and corn, produced and distributed bags of multi-stress tolerant rice seeds and distributed early maturing rice varieties and drought or heat tolerant crops.

For the livestock sector, DA also distributed veterinary drugs and biologics and encouraged raisers to use tunnel ventilation and other cooling facilities.

“DA also dispersed fingerlings to replenish projected production losses for the fishery sector,” DA said.

The National Irrigation Administration also encouraged farmers to use modified cropping calendars and patterns, plant short gestating rice varieties and maximize the utilization of effective rainfall.

The weather bureau earlier confirmed that based on its recent climate outlook, there was a possibility of a stronger El Niño in the last quarter of the year which will last up to the second quarter of 2016.

Due to the below normal rainfall, the National Water Resources Board also encouraged the public to conserve water in order to properly manage the country’s water supply.

As of 6 a.m. yesterday, Angat dam’s water level was at 189.65 meters, down by 0.06 meters from the 189.71 meters level on Sept. 22.

The water level in Ambuklao dam also went down by 0.13 meters to 751.64 meters from the previous day’s level of 751.77 meters.

Water levels in San Roque dam, Magat dam and Caliraya dam also slightly dropped due to the lack of rainfall during the past weeks. Water levels in Ipo dam, La Mesa, Binga and Pantabangan dam however went up slightly.

“We are closely monitoring the water level in Angat and the El Niño while reviewing the releases from Angat dam. The other dams were able to increase their levels but considering the strong El Niño they have to prepare also to address the requirements of irrigation,” said NWRB executive director Sevillo David Jr.

David said that while Angat dam’s water level remain above the 180 meter minimum operating level, the NWRB Board is currently studying if there’s a need to further reduce the allocation for Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc.

Angat dam currently supplies about 90 percent of the water requirements of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

“At the current level, without significant rainfall in the Angat watershed, we are discussing if we will retain the current allocation or slight  reduction. We will finalize the decision by Monday,” David said.

NWRB earlier reduced the allocation of Maynilad and Manila Water to 38 cubic meters per second this month from 41 cubic meters per second in July and August.

The reduced water allocation resulted to Maynilad implementing a seven-hour daily water interruption in its concession area. Manila Water also implemented a seven-hour reduced water pressure in the East zone.

Maynilad Water Supply Operations Head Engineer Ronaldo Padua said however that further reducing the water allocation will result to longer water interruptions in the West zone.

“We are still appealing to NWRB thru Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, to maintain the 38cms allocation from Angat dam for Metro Manila this October. Shoud NWRB decide to reduce the 38 cms allocation, the current water interruption schedule in the West zone may lengthen, and more customers may be affected,” Padua said.

“In any case, Maynilad will continue to exert all effort to mitigate the impact to our customers,” Padua added.

Manila Water Corporate Communications Head Jeric Sevilla Jr. said that for the East zone, the company will still need to calibrate its service adjustments if ever allocation will be reduced further.

“ If NWRB retains the allocation however, we will still continue with the water pressure reduction,” Sevilla said.

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