MANILA: The Philippine government and some environmental groups have instituted measures to mitigate the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon which is expected to hit the Philippines and other countries in the Asia Pacific region later this year, reports China's Xinhua news agency.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a local environmental watchdog, has called on the public to reduce water and electricity consumption as these two commodities would be the first to be affected by the prolonged drought caused by El Nino.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently predicted the occurrence of "one of the strongest El Nino in recorded history" in the coming months, with expert Bill Patzert saying that it "has the potential of being the Godzilla El Nino".
El Nino means The Little Boy, or Christ Child in Spanish. It was originally recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America in the 1600s, with the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean.
The name was chosen based on the time of year (around December) during which these warm waters tended to occur. The warmer waters are normally confined to the western Pacific by winds that blow from east to west, pushing the warmer water toward Indonesia and Australia.
El Nino occurs every two to seven years in varying intensity, and the waters of the eastern Pacific can be up to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than usual.
The Philippine weather agency said the El Nino phenomenon in the country may intensify from moderate to strong in the last quarter of 2015 up to the first quarter of 2016.
Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition coordinator, said the rising temperature brought by El Nino would mean more demand for water and electricity by people because of the scorching heat. "In anticipation of potential supply deficiency, all sectors of the society need to take extra steps to conserve water and electricity use during the El Nino episode and beyond," Lucero said.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) has already implemented measures to lessen the impact of El Nino, particularly on the country's main agricultural products. "We've been prepared since last year. Cloud-seeding operations in different parts of the country are still ongoing. We are partnering with local government units for their implementation," said Agriculture Undersecretary Emerson Palad.
The DA has initiated water-management and production-support programmes to help farmers deal with the impact of the drought. These include the installation of small water-impounding projects and diversion dams in rice-growing regions.
Small and poor farmers are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of El Nino since they are already marginalised even when water supply is abundant.
According to Senator Loren Legarda, chairman of the senate committee on climate change, during El Nino, the primary concern is food security because prolonged drought would drastically cut down the production of local crops and fisheries yield.
The l997 El Nino affected 74,000 hectares of agricultural lands in 18 provinces in the Philippines. The impact of the worst-recorded El Nino was most felt in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. More than 74 people died and almost half a million agricultural families experienced hunger because of the drought.