IT was just a few short weeks ago when we had to face the problem of floods and landslides because of a series of storms and low-pressure areas coming from the Pacific, then dumping rains as they swept on towards Asia.
Rains come regularly to our islands, following an annual schedule dictated by the world’s weather. Our “habagat” winds come around May, bringing in waters that had evaporated from the hot equatorial seas southwest of us. This begins our rainy season, when our farmers start planting their fields.
July and August are the hot-season months. Then around October, the “amihan” starts flowing in from the cold north, bringing in the season we associate with Christmas in December and January. March and April mark the start of the hot season, which lasts up to May when the rainy season begins.
Apart from this schedule of the annual “habagat” and “amihan,” we have the system of storms and low-pressure areas arising from the central Pacific, then sweeping westward towards the Asian mainland. They carry water that had evaporated from the hot Pacific. Wherever they hit land, the air rises and cools and dumps its load of water.
The Philippines stands right on the westward path of these storms or slightly north of it. When a storm nears us, at any time of the year, we have rains that often cause landslides. We had these storm rains as late as a few weeks ago when we should have been in the middle of our summer season. The rainfall was such that Rep. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur was moved to file a bill to save the rainwater that was just causing floods and landslides, before flowing out to sea.
In his bill, the congressman said developers of projects in Metro Manila and other major cities should set up rainwater retention facilities as part of their projects. In this way, we save the rainwater which is really a major natural resource.
The hot season has now begun in our islands. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has published a map of the Philippines, showing the entire Northern and Central Luzon and many provinces in Western Visayas and Western Mindanao as in danger of suffering from drought in the coming months.
The water level at La Mesa Dam, which supplies the water for Metro Manila, has fallen below the 69-meter critical level. The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has begun urging the public to conserve water. The usual summer weather is being enhanced this year by the El Niño phenomenon, when heat develops in the Pacific then spreads all around.
With or without El Niño, we really should save the rainwater that we receive in abundance during the rainy season. We already save a great deal of it in several dams, but we need to build more of them, along with smaller rainwater retention facilities.
Our days are getting hotter and longer, but we have the natural resources – rainwater – to meet this problem. We just have to save it and use it.