THE country is experiencing a mild case of El Niño that could prolong the dry season, the weather bureau said Tuesday.
“The dry spell is not defined. That is why it is called a weak El Niño,” said climatologist Anthony Lucero in a radio interview.
Bureau officials and climatologists are meeting to get an accurate forecast, said Venus Valdemorro, public information officer at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Based on the latest data of international climate monitoring agencies in Japan and Australia, there is a 50 percent to 60 percent that the El Niño episode will last until June.
An El Niño event occurs when sea surface temperatures in the central and easter equatorial Pacific become warmer than normal.
The weather bureau said the dry spell occurs every two to nine years and may persist up to nine months, causing a reduction in the amount of rainfall.
In General Santos City, Mindanao, the dry spell has devastated about 300 hectares of corn and rice farms.
The city and other parts of Region 12 are among the most vulnerable to the effects of the El Niño, the weather bureau said.
The Agriculture Department has begun taking measures, such as the distribution of water pumps and engines, as part of its preparation for the effects of the dry spell.
The National Water Resources Board, meanwhile, has assured residents in Metro Manila of a sufficient supply of potable water despite the dry months.
The Energy Department said dams operated by the National Power Corp. are still at normal operating status but the El Niño could eventually reduce the dams’ ability to deliver power.
“DOE is undertaking energy conservation and water management,” Energy Department director Mylene Capongcol said.
The Angat dam in Bulacan, which supplies the bulk of Metro Manila’s water supply reported, water levels at 201.52 meters above sea level on Tuesday, dipping from 201.78 MASL on Monday. The Angat dam has a normal water level of 212 MASL and a minimum operating level of 180 MASL.
The Ambuklao dam in Benguet also showed a slight drop in water level to 749.42 MASL from 749.44 MASL a day before. The Ambuklao dam, however, has a normal water level of 752 MASL and a minimum operating level of 740 MASL.
The Binga dam, also in Benguet, reported a water level of 571.12 MASL as of March 10, lower than the 571.26 MASL recorded the day before. The Binga dam has a normal water level of 575 MASL and minimum operating level of 563 MASL.
The San Roque dam in Pangasinan showed a slight dip in water levels to 254.64 MASL on Tuesday from 254.94 MASL the day before. The San Roque dam’s normal water level is at 280 MASL while minimum operating level is at 225.50 MASL.
Water levels at the Pantabangan dam in Nueva Ecija dropped to 190.60 MASL from 190.88 MASL for only a two-day period.
The Caliraya dam in Laguna showed no decrease as its water levels remained steady at 288.29 MASL for the past two days. Normal water levels at the Caliraya dam is at 288 MASL while minimum operating level was at 285.50 MASL.
“All hydro inflows are below last year for the same period. This was expected. That’s why we have told NIA (National Irrigation Administration) that they have to conserve water this summer,” First Gen Corp. executive vice president Ernesto Pantangco said.
First Gen Hydro Power Corp. operates the Pantabangan-Masiway hydro power plant in Nueva Ecija.
Napocor earlier pushed for the creation of the Philippine Dam Regulatory Authority to further promote dam safety and ensure compliance to international dam standards.
Napocor president Ma. Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita said the Philippines is now one of the few countries in the world without a Dams Regulatory Authority.
“Though we at NPC is very particular in following international safety guidelines and standards, there are more and more private companies being involve now in dams management. Other government agencies like NIA also have dams of their own,” Sta. Rita said.
Also on Tuesday, the Manila Water Co., Inc. said several barangays in San Mateo and Rodriguez Rizal will have no water service for three days.
Manila Water said the service interruption will begin on March 16 at 10 p.m. and will last until 10 p.m. of March 18 as the company undertakes its seismic retrofitting project.
Other barangays in Rodriguez and San Mateo and several barangays in Marikina City will also be affected and will experience up to 12 hours of water service interruption daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. from March 16 to 18. – With Alena Mae Flores and Anna Leah E. Gonzales