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Pagasa urges concerned government agencies to prepare vs El Niño

MANILA, Philippines - The state weather bureau urged yesterday concerned government agencies to come up with appropriate measures that can mitigate the possible effects of the developing El Niño phenomenon, particularly in the agriculture sector.

El Niño is the abnormal warming in the equatorial Pacific and is usually characterized by below normal rainfall.

Nathaniel Cruz, deputy administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), said that as of yesterday, there is “90 percent” chance that the El Niño would develop this month based on monitoring of several international weather agencies.

Cruz said this would have an effect on sectors that depend on or are affected by water like agriculture, energy and even health.

Cruz said although the intensity of the El Niño has yet to be predicted, the government, particularly the Department of Agriculture, must prepare for its possible effects on crop production.

He said India is already experiencing “mild drought” and officials attributed this to the weather phenomenon.

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In the case of the Philippines, Cruz said the areas that are likely to be affected by the El Niño are eastern and central Mindanao, eastern Visayas, Bicol and Cagayan Valley.

“The areas that are likely to be affected by the El Niño are those areas that are dependent on rains brought about by the northeast monsoon,” Cruz said, adding that farmers must start planning their planting period or plant crops that require less water.

Earlier, Pagasa said the impact of the warming trend in the Pacific Ocean is expected in September.

“Below normal rainfall condition is likely to be experienced in most parts of Isabela and the Visayas, southern part of the Bicol region, including Virac, northern Palawan and most parts of Agusan province during the month of September,” it said.

Cruz said the El Niño phenomenon is expected to last until the first quarter of next year, which he said is its usual cycle.

The United States Climate Prediction Center, an office under the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, has reported that the equatorial Pacific Ocean has “transitioned... to El Niño conditions.”

It said climatic trends favor a “weak-to-moderate strength El Niño” into the northern hemisphere winter of 2009, “with further strengthening possible thereafter.”   – Helen Flores

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