By Francis Wakefield
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that cloud seeding operations have started in Regions 2 and 12 as part of efforts to help mitigate the effects of the mild El Niño phenomenon currently affecting the country.
Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, Civil Defense administrator and NDRRMC executive director, said the cloud seeding operation has been scheduled from March 14 to May 21, 2019, after conducting joint area assessments.
Jalad said a total amount of P18.3 million has been released to the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional offices for cloud seeding operations in partnership with the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
On Wednesday, the NDRRMC’s Technical Management Group convened at the NDRRM Operations Center Conference Room in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, where they discussed updates and action plans of pertinent agencies in regard to the impacts of El Niño in the country.
Jalad presided over the meeting that was participated in by Department of Science and Technology (DoST) Undersecretary Renato U. Solidum and representatives from The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-National Water Resources Board (DENR-NWRB), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Health (DoH), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Privacy Commission (NPC), National Electrification Administration (NEA), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Commission on Elections (COMELEC), and Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
Private groups such as the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) as well as water concessionaires, Maynilad and Manila Water, were also present during the meeting. OCD Regional Offices 9, 11, 12, and MIMAROPA likewise joined the meeting through teleconference.
Jalad assured the public that the government is doing everything to ensure adequate water supply for all.
“These agencies present in today’s meeting, especially those working with the water sector will continue to collaborate to provide needed services to the public,” Undersecretary Jalad said.
Jalad said NDRRMC member-agencies shall submit their respective Action Plans with regard to the impacts of El Niño to the OCD by March 15, 2019. These will be consolidated and presented in the NDRRMC Full Council Meeting on March 20, 2019.
“Meantime, everyone is encouraged to remain calm, avoid water wastage, and always practice sustainable water management in their respective homes,” Jalad said.
PAF Spokesman Major Aristides Galang said the Air Force is ready to provide assistance in the conduct of cloud seeding operations.
“We are prepared for that, and we have the capability for that. Nakapag-conduct naman tayo ng cloud seeding before [Even before, we have already conducted cloud seeding operations] ” Galang said.
Galang said among the aircrafts that can be used in the conduct of cloud seeding are the Cessna 210 and the Nomad aircraft.
He said the 900th Air Force Weather Group is expected to perform the cloud seeding operations.
Jalad as per DA’s report on the total damages and losses due to El Nino, a total of P464.3 million production loss and 22,918 metric tons in volume loss were recorded as of March 8, 2019.
He said the total area affected has reached 13,679 hectares affecting 16,034 farmers in the following regions: 9, 10, 11, 12, MIMAROPA, and BARMM. a, and BARMM.
Jalad said the DA conducted field validation to assess the damages and losses and continues to monitor standing crops in areas at risk.
Jalad said updates on the action plans of various agencies to address the threat posed by El Niño were also discussed as well as the current water supply situation in Metro Manila.
According to the DENR-NWRD, Angat Dam, which is the main source of water in Metro Manila, is still within its normal operating level at 199.94 meters elevation compared to its minimum operating level at 180 meters. This means that Angat Dam can sufficiently address Metro Manila’s water requirements.
The declining water level of La Mesa Dam, according to MWSS, is caused by the increase in water treatment production of Manila Water. The water allocation of Manila Water from MWSS sourced from Angat Dam is 18.5 cubic meters per second (1600 million liters per day). The water demand from Manila Water consumers, however, has increased to 20.25 cms (1750 million liters per day), forcing the latter to source the deficit from La Mesa Dam.
To remedy this, the Technical Working Group composed of the NWRD, MWSS, NIA, PAGASA, Manila Water, and Maynilad committed to continue their close coordination to ensure that water supply releases from Angat Dam are optimized.
Cross border gate opening shall be done in which 50 MLD from Maynilad will be delivered to Manila Water.
MWSS also presented its contingency plans, which include rotating water supply and pressure management, energization of Cardona Water Treatment plant on March 31, 2019, that can provide additional 50 MLD, non-revenue water recovery, utilization of backwash from water treatment plant, and deployment of mobile water treatment plants (in which 5 units shall come from Manila Water and 3 standby units from Maynilad) as well as water tankers (27 water tankers from Manila Water, 5 from Maynilad, and 6 from Red Cross).
The NWRD and MWSS shall also activate the MWSS’ backup deep wells in case there is a need to augment the water supply. On this, hospitals with standby deep well will be the priority.
NDRRMC member-agencies also presented their respective updates and action plans.
The DILG is set to issue a Memorandum Circular to all LGUs urging them to enact ordinances curbing illegal connections and encouraging the prudent use of water. The said ordinance shall also allow water concessionaires and water utilities to conduct emergency repair of leaks.
The BFP was also directed to allow the free use of fire trucks for water distribution.
Jalad said the DSWD has standby funds amounting to P11, 834,230,970 to provide family food packs as well as cash-for-work programs should they be needed.