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Brace for La Niña, local gov’ts told

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:08:00 08/24/2010

Filed Under: Environmental Issues, Weather, Disasters (general), Local authorities

MANILA, Philippines?Environment officials and experts have advised local governments to brace for strong storms and surging floodwaters brought by the erratic La Niña weather phenomenon in the next few months, saying the signs point to a brutal rainy season.

Neric Acosta, co-convenor of the La Niña Summit held at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Monday, said the local governments should be ready with their disaster-preparedness programs.

?Expect the worst. Prepare the best we can,? Acosta said in an interview, adding that the experience suffered by the people from the flood and rains brought by Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? (international codename: Ketsana) and other mega-storms in the past few years had underlined the importance of disaster-preparedness.

People and local governments have now realized that disasters and environment matters are no longer abstract issues, he said. The supertyphoons have made them realized that it is now about ?survival,? he said.

?It?s about hunger, floods, sickness and jobs,? Acosta noted.

La Niña is a weather phenomenon resulting from air-sea interaction that leads to colder ocean temperature in the Pacific. The phenomenon is marked by unseasonal monsoon rains, which results in excessive rainfall.

Environment officials said this year?s La Niña could last longer, which meant that the country should brace for more typhoons.

?La Niña is expected around September and October,? said Dr. Esteban Godilano of the DA?s Planning and Policy Officer. ?According to studies, it may still be extended even up to February,? he noted.

Climate Change Commission chief Heherson Alvarez said the Philippines is not prepared for extreme weather brought by global warming.

?The Philippines is being visited by more than 20 supertyphoons each year. But due to our socioeconomic standing, most often we are caught unprepared by the disaster brought about by these intensifying typhoons,? Alvarez said.

?This results in destruction of properties, including farmlands where many of us get our food and livelihood. This also results in accidents that claim the lives of many people,? he said.

Asked if the country is ready for La Niña, Alvarez said ?not yet.?

?We need to be better prepared,? he said. If the Philippines is faced with a storm that has the strength of Hurricane ?Katrina,? ?I don?t think we can survive this,? he said.

The current flooding in Pakistan, which forced thousands to flee their homes and led to unprecedented humanitarian crisis there, could happen in the Philippines, Acosta said. ?It?s not impossible,? he said.

The Department of Agrarian Reform pointed out that 744 agrarian reform communities in 66 provinces were considered to be vulnerable to La Niña.

Acosta and Alvarez said local governments should take it upon themselves to implement mitigation measures in their localities instead of waiting for the national government to do its part.

?Unpreparedness destroys properties, unpreparedness destroys lives,? Alvarez said.

For instance, they could boost their rescue teams and identify possible evacuation centers, Acosta said. ?They could assign point persons for disasters, tell people where to go, identify emergency centers,? he said.

?If the United States has 911, they could set up a similar line,? he added.

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