Solon: Fight El Niño via updated RAIN

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As the country braces for the return of El Niño, a leader of the House of Representatives on Tuesday urged President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to update the Roadmap to Address Impact of El Niño (RAIN).

House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto, in a statement, recalled that RAIN was a comprehensive strategy paper drafted by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which guided the whole-of-nation’s response during the 2015-2016 El Niño episode.

According to Recto, Marcos should lead in the upgrading of RAIN so that the weather phenomenon will not seriously harm the country’s food, electricity and water supply.

“There is a blueprint for this kind of emergency. We just need to dust it off and brush it up, so it will be attuned to the unique characteristics of the 2023 version of El Niño,” Recto said.

Recto said “one big motivating factor” for the commission of an El Niño response strategy “is that (El Nino) will hit a sector which is under his jurisdiction – agriculture.”

“Our agriculture has preexisting comorbidity. On top of this is the recent combined fuel-fertilizer crisis. Foul weather should not be the third,” Recto said.

“Scarcity in water leads to scarcity in food. This is not an alarmist statement. It is a fact, because without water, you cannot grow food,” he added.

Because water lack shrink planting areas, delay planting seasons and cut crop yields, a World Bank-cited study found that a “one degree increase in sea surface temperatures” led to a “3.7 percent decline in irrigated dry season production and a 13.7 percent decline in rainfed dry season production in Luzon,” according to Recto.

El Niño increases the likelihood of unusually low rainfall conditions that could cause the water hoard in dams to fall below functional levels.

It also negatively impacts livestock and poultry as high temperatures can cause heat stress on animals, Recto warned.

He said “assuring statements” coming from government agencies should not be limited to “dipstick readings on big water dams near Manila, because the country is big and sources are diverse.”

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, there have been seven severe El Niño events since 1980, with the last one lasting from 2015 to 2016, inflicting $327 million in agricultural losses.

To address the 2015-2016 El Niño episode, the Aquino administration crafted RAIN, which focused on ensuring food security, health, energy security, safety in 67 affected provinces and Metro Manila.

Recto said the Marcos government should have a whole-of-nation response of its own, and “I believe that the BBM version will be a superior one because it can draw from a wealth of previous experiences.”

In the previous El Niño event that persisted from the last quarter of 2018 to the third quarter of 2019, up to 61 percent of the country endured a drought while the other 39 percent underwent a dry spell.

A drought means three consecutive months of greater than 60 percent reduction from average rainfall, or five consecutive months of 21 to 60 percent reduction from average rainfall.

A dry spell means three consecutive months of 21 to 60 percent reduction from average rainfall, or two consecutive months of greater than 60 percent reduction from average rainfall.