The water supply problem could stem out a shortage of food in the years to come, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol cautioned.
Piñol attributed El Niño as the strong factor that gives the water systems and the government in resolving the crisis. He said that the drying up of creeks and rivers to massive deforestation that affected farm lands in the country amounts to the drought phenomenon.
He said the occurrence of the drought-inducing El Niño or prolonged dry spell and the delay in the implementation of irrigation systems are among the reasons why water supply for agriculture keeps on decreasing.
“There is also (the) absence of water conservation programs, water catchments and small impounding dams and the reliance of agriculture on traditional irrigation systems instead of embracing modern irrigation technology using solar power,” he noted.
In the recent meeting of Cabinet secretaries on water, Piñol said he made a presentation, which emphasized the threat of a looming water crisis especially for agriculture.
He said there are three key elements in agricultural productivity: land, sunlight and water.
"Land and sunlight could be substituted with aquaponics technology and artificial light but there could never be [with] agriculture without water," he said.
The DA chief submitted long-term measures to address the water shortage concerns, especially in agriculture.
These include instituting a national program to locate and protect the country's main water resources.
He said this must be implemented as soon as possible and when this is done, all of these areas should be declared as highly-protected areas where no human intrusion should be allowed.
Reforestation of denuded mountains must also be a multi-agency task to include local government units (LGUs), and not just the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Piñol said there is also a need for a legislation to be enacted with the necessary funding support that would require all LGUs, with the support of national government agencies, to establish water catchments, small water impounding and mini-dams.
Dredging of the country's major river systems must also be undertaken immediately to increase their water-holding capacity and the concerned personnel must ensure that there will be enough water for the dams and impounding systems.
The agriculture chief said the government must also invest in the construction of more dams, not only for irrigation purposes but as reserve reservoir, for water supply of urban areas during droughts.
A need to provide funding for alternative and sustainable small irrigation projects like the solar-powered irrigation were also the agriculture secretary has pointed out. So that rice farms, especially in Central Luzon, will not only be dependent on the huge dams for water, freeing the supply for the use of Metro Manila and other vast urban centers.
"This task will not be easy and the results will not be quick. Trees will not grow and cover the mountains in just two to three years. In fact, the effect of this advocacy, which I know that President Rody Duterte has already embraced, may not even be felt during his Presidency," Piñol said.
"But this is not about today but the future and the next generation of Filipinos. We must act now or else many more springs will dry up and disappear and they will never be brought back to life," he said. (with reports from PNA)