MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday warned the public against shellfish products from provinces where red tide algae had started to bloom.
Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said selling and harvesting shellfish from Sorsogon Bay in Sorsogon; Murcielagos Bay in Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental; Bislig Bay in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur and Dumanguillas Bay, Zamboanga del Sur are banned.
A man walks along a dried-up waterway in Kawit, Cavite, where most residents rely on catching fish and shellfish for a living. Health officials have warned the public against eating shellfish from provinces where the El Niño phenomenon has led to red tide infestation. MANNY MARCELO
Cabral noted that shellfish gathered from other areas not contaminated by red tide are not covered by the ban.
In an advisory, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that based on laboratory tests, shellfish taken from these areas “are still positive for paralytic shellfish poison that is beyond the regulatory limit.”
“All types of shellfish and acetes esp or alamang (tiny shrimps) gathered from the areas are not safe for human consumption. Fish, shrimps, and crabs are safe provided they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking,” BFAR said.
Meanwhile, Pangasinan has reconstituted its mutli-sectoral task force to plan actions in an effort to mitigate the impact of the El Niño phenomenon on agriculture, environment, economy and human health.
Gov. Amado Espino Jr. said that an immediate plan of action must be implemented to cushion the effect of El Niño and assist marginalized farmers from production loss through effective solutions.
The task force, chaired by Dalisay Moya, officer-in-charge of the provincial agriculture office with retired Col. Paterno Orduña as co-chair, will identify, monitor and evaluate all areas within the irrigated lands that are traditionally not reached by irrigation water during long dry spells.
Moya said they are also tasked to identify all livestock and inland fishery areas that are most likely affected by the phenomenon.
“We need to educate our farmers, the fisher-folks and other agricultural stakeholders by providing them information about practical tips regarding this phenomenon. They must be ready for any eventuality to sustain productivity,” Moya said.
Around 105.5 hectares of farmlands are already affected by drought in 246 barangays and a total of 83.5 hectares had been harvested with low yield.
State of calamity
The worsening effect of El Niño has also moved the Ifugao provincial government to declare the eastern Alfonso Lista town under a state of calamity, but Ifugao Gov. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. had hinted at putting the entire province under a state of calamity.
“We might as well issue a calamity declaration throughout the province soon since practically all our towns have been similarly affected by the dry spell,” said Baguilat.
Aside from damaged crops, cattle had also died due to the searing heat.
Initial reports have placed crop damage at more than P65 million. Of these, corn incurred the biggest damage at P30.3 million; rice, P29.2 million; and P5.7 million for fruit trees.
The Ifugao provincial veterinary office reported that at least 60 livestock have already succumbed to heat stroke because of scarce water supply.
Alfonso Lista reported eight cows, five goats and two carabaos affected by heat stroke; Lagawe, 27 cows and four goats; Aguinaldo, three cows, two goats and two carabaos; and Lamut, 10 goats, all worth nearly P1 million.
Cases of fishkill were also noted in Alfonso Lista on the Ifugao side of Magat dam, which Agriculture officials attributed to lower oxygen content in the water brought about by the dip in the water level due to the absence of rainfall.
In Mindanao, General Santos City’s agriculture office will conduct cloud-seeding operation starting next week in a desperate bid to bring some relief to rice and corn farmers reeling from El Niño.
At least 1,189 hectares of standing corn crop in 11 barangays have withered from the intense sunlight, with damage placed at P15.8 million, according to city agriculturist Merlinda Donasco.
Donasco identified the severely affected areas as Olimpog, 309 hectares; Batomelong, 154 hectares; Conel, 153 hectares; Tinagacan,150 hectares; Mabuhay, 110 hectares; Sinawal, 87 hectares; San Jose, 62 hectares; Upper Labay, 58 hectares; and Katangawan, 10 hectares.
On the other hand, some 114 hectares of corn worth P2.3 million have been destroyed since the last quarter of 2009 in Barangays Baluan (20), Buayan (20), Katangawan (20), San Isidro (20), Ligaya (18) and Tinagacan (15), she said.
El Niño commission sought
Because of the damage brought about by the calamity, two Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial candidates proposed the creation of a national commission that would be tasked to map out strategies to cushion the impact of El Niño.
League of Municipalities of the Philippines president and Binalonan Mayor Ramon Guico said the proposed El Niño Commission will have its own funding which will be incorporated in the annual national budget.
Guico explained that the commission’s entire budget will be spent on preemptive and emergency operations aimed at helping farmers cope with the dry spell.
“We have to live with the fact that the El Niño phenomenon will haunt us every year as a result of climate change. It is already a permanent problem, so we need a permanent solution to deal with it,” he said.
Lawyer Raul Lambino, on the other hand, said the proposed measure was prompted by his observations that both the local and national governments do not have a systematic way of dealing with the drought.
“Officials of the national and local governments are always cramming for solutions when its effects are already being felt and, as such, rendered helpless most of the time,” he said.
Lambino said the presence of a special commission that will concentrate on all El Niño related problems will give the government more time to prepare and come up with preemptive measures.
Aside from its own budget, Lambino said the commission could also be empowered to supervise and assist local government units on how to wisely spend their respective calamity funds on problems relating to drought.
Both Guico and Lambino agreed to leave it to the proper authorities to draft the specific details on the creation of the commission, like its composition and scope of powers and responsibilities.
Seeking divine intervention
Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales yesterday joined the call for rain to counter the effects of El Niño.
Rosales yesterday afternoon issued a circular on Oratio Imperata, an intercessory prayer for rain, to all parish priests, shrine rectors, chaplains and school directors.
The special prayers would be inserted into the daily and Sunday Masses. The prayers would be read on Feb. 28, the Second Sunday of Lent.
“People tasked with managing our water/power resources have warned that we face drought and shortage of water because of El Niño. Our relief will come from nature. And so we implore the Master of all creation, God, our Father, at whose command the winds and the seas obey, to send us rain and ease the drought,” Rosales said.
The Cardinal is the third Church official to issue an Oratio Imperata. Last Thursday, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad and Monsignor Achilles Dakay, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Cebu, said they would come out with their own prayers for rain.
Bishop Jumoad even went as far as asking the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to issue a nationwide Oratio Imperata since many farmers have been badly affected by the drought. – Eva Visperas, Jaime Laude, Charlie Lagasca, Cesar Ramirez, Nonong Baliao, Jaime Laude, Evelyn Macairan