ILOILO City – The Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) failed to take up yesterday the recommendation to place this city under a state of calamity due to water scarcity and damage to agriculture, both adverse effects of the El Niño phenomenon.
There was no quorum in the 14-member SP. Seven councilors were not present in the scheduled regular session.
“We cannot use the calamity fund unless the city council declares a state of calamity,” lamented Councilor Plaridel Nava who was among the SP members present yesterday.
Those absent were Lady Julie Grace Baronda, Ely Estante, Leila Luntao, Mandrie Malabor, Irene Ong, Armand Parcon, and Jay Treñas.
The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) chaired by Mayor Jose Espinosa III recommended the declaration of a state of calamity so that the city government could use its calamity fund to address the situation.
In Resolution No. 4-209 recommending a declaration of a state of calamity, the CDRRMC pointed to the results of a rapid assessment conduct in 134 of the city’s 180 barangys. Of these barangays, 49 were suffering from water scarcity affecting a population of 117,265 or 23,453 households.
The councilors present yesterday were Espinosa’s allies Eduardo Peñaredondo, Leizl Zulueta-Salazar, Candice Magdalene Tupas, R Leone Gerochi, and Lyndon Acap, and councilors Nava and Joshua Alim.
While Malabor, also an ally of Espinosa, is currently on leave (he is out of the country), it was unclear as of this writing why the six others who failed to show up was not around.
Nava and Alim, however, believed the absence of their six colleagues was intentional and politically motivated.
The six were allies of Cong. Jerry Treñas who is running for mayor against Espinosa this May 13 midterm elections.
“Their absence means they do not want to support a declaration of a state of calamity. Para sa ila disadvantage ini sa ila pulitika. Kon amo ina ang sa mind nila, ti kaluluoy lang pirmi ang pumoluyo,” said Nava.
For the recommendation to be tackled, Nava said, Espinosa may call for an SP special session.
Espinosa himself believed the absence of the city councilors were ill-motivated.
“Sin-o naman ina pakana? Kay sin-o instruction? Sugo naman ni sin-o nga pulitiko?” he asked.
The city mayor lamented that the situation is becoming an emergency but the city’s efforts to address it is being stymied by politics.
“Let the people know nga amo ina ang ginhimo nila. Kon ang ila ginahimo pagsabotahe sang programa sang gobyerno nga para sa pumoluyo then salabton ina nila sa pumoluyo,” said Espinosa.
The affected population comprised 24.92 percent of the city’s total population of 472,491 – enough to declare a state of calamity (the minimum requirement set by law is 20 percent of the population).
City Agriculturist Romulo Pangantihon said El Niño has also severely affected the city’s agriculture sector (around 18.5 hectares of farmlands mostly planted with palay).
The city has a total agricultural land area of 379 hectares.
Meanwhile, Amarylis Josephine Castro, manager of the Finance Department of Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD), confirmed that barangays Bo. Obrero, Boulevard, San Juan, Baluarte, Mansaya, Ingore, Fundidor, and Timawa were experiencing severe water shortage due to weak water pressure which it turn was traced to the critical water level at MIWD’s water sources.
“If not timely addressed, the situation result to serious consequences such as but not limited to human illness in the form of skin diseases, renal impairment, and other health problems not to mention the deleterious impact to agricultural crops and resultantly to the livelihood of our people,” read part of Espinosa’s letter to the SP requesting a declaration of a state of calamity./PN