PAGASA: Prepare for long dry spell

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/27 May) — The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) urged Region 12’s four provinces and five cities to start preparing for the predicted onslaught later this year of a moderate long dry spell or El Niño Phenomenon.

Dr. Vicente Malano, PAGASA acting administrator, said Tuesday the region had been identified as among the most vulnerable areas in terms of the adverse impact of the coming El Niño, which was foreseen to start by July or August.

He said the area’s local governments should now start crafting their mitigation plans and other necessary measures that would help offset the impact of the drought.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

El Niño is a phenomenon caused by the abnormal warming of the central and eastern Pacific waters, generally manifests in a dry spell, or below normal rainfall, usually following wet conditions.

Malano said the El Niño will likely last for 1.5 quarters or around six to seven months at the most.

He said it could begin to peak by November and might continue until March or April in 2015.

“But we’re only seeing a moderate El Niño and its impact will not be as bad as the 1997-1998 scenario,” he said at the sidelines of the two-day “Iba Na Ang Panahon (INAP): Science for Safer Communities” road show here.

Malano was referring to the nine-month drought in 1997 and 1998 that ravaged parts of the country, especially in Mindanao.

The long dry spell then caused thousands of hectares of farmlands to dry up, resulting to hundreds of million worth in damages or losses.

Several residents situated upland villages of North Cotabato were reported to have died after being forced to eat “kayos,” a toxic root crop, due to a shortage of food supplies.

Malano said the moderate forecast for the upcoming El Niño was based on the numerical data that showed a slower-than-expected warming of Pacific Ocean waters.

He said the ocean’s temperature was only seen to hit about 0.5 degrees higher than the normal levels or below the one degree recorded during the 1997-1998 El Niño.

“As of now, there’s an 80 percent probability that the drought will happen and only about 20 percent that it will develop into something else,” he added. (MindaNews)