(File photo courtesy of DA-Philrice)

MANILA – The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said public support is essential to support government efforts to mitigate the impacts of El Niño which is expected to hit the country in the later part of the year.

This, as government agencies continue to finalize and settle pressing concerns and preparations for the phenomenon.

"We are continuously working together to ramp up our efforts and ensure that all areas of concern will be handled properly. As we implement measures to address the impacts of this phenomenon, the involvement of various sectors is necessary, especially the public," Office of Civil Defense (OCD) deputy administrator for operations, Assistant Secretary Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro IV, said in a statement Monday night.

Earlier, the National El Niño Team conducted a coordination meeting at Camp Aguinaldo, in Quezon City with concerned member agencies.

It was chaired by Alejandro who is also OCD spokesperson. Discussed during the meeting was the development of the national action plan for El Niño along with the report of the actions taken by the different agencies to prepare for the climate phenomenon’s projected adverse impacts on food, health, water and energy security as well as public safety.

The National Economic and Development Authority outlined the inter-agency coordination for the development of the national action plan for El Niño, taking into account the climate projections of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services to determine priority interventions for specific regions.

This was followed by the presentation of the respective preparations and interventions of government agencies in various key areas of concern.

"Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, lead for food security, highlighted prevention, mitigation and preparedness measures on water management, crops, fisheries, livestock, as well as its cross cutting activities," Alejandro said.

While the lead for water security, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) presented its objectives which include integration of all water-related data, strengthening of water conservation, and development of alternative water sources, among others.

The DENR also discussed immediate, medium and long-term measures to address the impacts of El Niño and the updates on the status of water resources.

The Department of Health reported its continuing efforts in ensuring that health consequences are contained and managed and that health services are provided continuously along with the strengthening of the preparedness of health facilities.

"Desired health outcomes in the areas of water supply and quality; food security and safety and the management of El Niño related diseases were discussed," Alejandro said.

On the other hand, the Department of Energy outlined power projections for the El Niño period and the interventions and programs in place to reduce the incidence of power interruptions and ensure the provision of power services from the various grids across the country.

Also, the Department of the Interior and Local Government reported continuous coordination with all local government units for the implementation of measures to regulate the operations of water-intensive businesses, strengthening local water conservation campaign drives, and ramping up the readiness of local police and fire protection services, as well as the enhancement of local disaster plans.

“Public education on this climate phenomenon and its impact is essential to ensure that they support all efforts such as water conservation and other remedies. Again, the whole-of-nation approach remains key to the effectiveness of our preparations and interventions," Alejandro emphasized.

He also encouraged Filipinos to join the national effort to prepare for the challenges of the El Niño phenomenon.

"Your cooperation, at the household level, will ensure that our preparations will be holistic and encompassing,” he added.

Gov’t preparation vs. El Niño

At the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Camille Villar on Tuesday said she has filed a resolution to look into the possible government interventions to mitigate the impact of the El Niño phenomenon.

In her House Resolution No. 1024, the Las Piñas lawmaker said the government must prepare for El Niño’s impending recurrence and its adverse impacts on various sectors even as the weather bureau has just declared the start of the rainy season.

“Apart from agriculture, water resources, power generation, health and sanitation and other sectors are likely to be impacted by El Niño, and concerned state agencies must prepare to mitigate the impacts of severe weather conditions,” Villar said.

She said El Niño could also affect the farming and fishing sectors as well as the workers’ livelihood and food security.

Villar added the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has also warned that El Niño could cause “far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment.” (with reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)