MANILA - Despite the El Niño phenomenon, the country will experience the usual number of typhoons this year, including stronger ones, the state weather bureau said yesterday.
At least 19 to 20 tropical cyclones enter the country every year, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
Because of El Niño, the tracks of tropical cyclones are expected to shift northward and the intensity could be stronger, it said.
Flaviana Hilario, PAGASA deputy administrator for research and development, said the rising temperature in the Pacific Ocean during the El Niño season intensifies weather disturbances such as storms and typhoons.
During a mild El Niño in 2004, Typhoons Yoyong and Unding, Tropical Storm Violeta and Tropical Depression Winnie brought heavy rains nationwide.
Typhoon Milenyo hit Metro Manila and the Bicol region as the country was experiencing an El Niño in 2006.
Typhoon Pepeng and Tropical Storm Ondoy battered the country amid a strong El Niño season in 2009.
PAGASA said although the El Niño would occur in June, there would be three to four months lag time before the country feels its impact.
“The usual impact of El Niño, which is below normal rainfall, will be felt during its peak or the last quarter of this year until the first quarter of next year,” Hilario said.
PAGASA foresees the onset of El Niño in June and may peak during the last quarter of the year.
In the Philippines, drought is associated with the occurrence of El Niño episodes, the weather bureau said, adding it can prevail for more than a year.
This year’s El Niño could be one of the strongest in several decades, Australian climate scientist Wenju Cai said.
The chance of an El Niño developing this year exceeded 70 percent, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 3 will implement measures to mitigate the impact of dry spell on crops.
DA assistant regional director Crispulo Bautista said there are 91 units of water pumps set for distribution in areas vulnerable to drought.
“The water pumps are part of the immediate interventions to safeguard agricultural crops from the dry spell,” Bautista said.
He said cloud seeding operations, which the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) started last month, is ongoing in the watersheds of Angat and Pantabangan dams.
Bautista said the agency would identify agricultural areas in the region which dry up easily.
He advised farmers in Central Luzon on the possible effects of the dry spell. He said once the water level at the Angat and Pantabangan dams reach critical level, irrigation supply will be cut.
The National Power Corp. (Napocor) said Army personnel have joined the cloud seeding operation at Angat Dam since Tuesday.
The operation is yet to be carried out, as team members have to wait for the right clouds for seeding.
Napocor president Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita said the cloud seeding team, which includes personnel from the Army and BSWM, is ready to fly anytime.
Water level drops
As of yesterday morning, the water level at Angat Dam dropped to 181.31 meters, or just over a meter higher than the critical level of 180.
Irrigation operators in Bulacan expressed fear the water level in Angat might breach the record low of 157.87 meters in 2010, noting the start of the El Niño phenomenon next month.
The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) said with the continuous drop, the critical level of 180 meters might be reached this weekend. Jorge Estioko of the NWRB said 180 meters is the minimum operating water level for Angat Dam, noting this could be the scenario either by tomorrow or Sunday.
Estioko said the board would discuss the reduction in water allocation, specifically for the month of June.
Earlier, the NWRB gave assurance that for this month, a 42-centimeter per second water supply allocation is available for Metro Manila.
Estioko said the board would meet on the third week of this month to discuss Metro Manila’s water allocation.
“As early as March, we’ve started strict monitoring of the water level in Angat Dam,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado has proposed dredging and the creation of a safety board to address issues concerning the 46-year-old Angat Dam. – With Ric Sapnu, Dino Balabo, Rhodina Villanueva