Government to Combat Forest Fires in Benguet through Cloud Seeding Operations

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The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has announced its plans to conduct cloud seeding operations in Benguet, Philippines, in an effort to quell the devastating forest fires that have engulfed the region. The announcement was made by Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo, PAF spokesperson, during a press conference held at Camp Aguinaldo.

Cloud seeding is a technique used to induce rainfall by dispersing substances into the air, such as silver iodide or salt, which act as cloud condensation or ice nuclei. By doing so, the PAF aims to suppress the fires that have been spreading rapidly in Benguet and Baguio City, which are part of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Col. Castillo explained that cloud seeding operations offer a different approach to combating the fires compared to traditional methods like helicopter bucket operations. With cloud seeding, the PAF can deliver approximately 800 liters of water per sortie, and they anticipate conducting around 50 sorties per day.

The urgency of the situation is evident as the fires have already caused significant damage. Mount Santo Tomas in Tuba town has been particularly affected, with the blaze threatening vital communication installations, TV and radio equipment. The fire has also spread to the neighboring municipality of Bokod, exacerbating the situation.

To address this crisis, the PAF is collaborating with the Department of Agriculture and the local government of Isabela. Recently, cloud seeding operations were conducted using a chartered plane, with Air Force Weather Officers and technicians overseeing the operations. These efforts have reportedly yielded positive results, with rain being produced as a result of the cloud seeding.

The need for such measures arises from the El Niño phenomenon, which was declared by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on July 4, 2023. El Niño is a climate pattern characterized by the warming of the Pacific Ocean, leading to a decrease in rainfall in certain regions. This phenomenon has had a detrimental impact on agriculture, with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reporting damages exceeding P810 million.

According to the NDRRMC, a total of 13,326 farmers and fisherfolk have been affected, along with approximately 12,493 hectares of crops. The consequences of the fires and the ongoing drought caused by El Niño have been devastating for the agricultural sector, posing a significant threat to food security in the region.

The PAF’s cloud seeding operations offer hope in the face of these challenges. By artificially inducing rainfall, the PAF aims to mitigate the effects of the fires and provide relief to the affected areas. The collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and the local government demonstrates a united front in addressing the crisis and finding innovative solutions.

As the PAF prepares to execute its cloud seeding operations in Benguet, the international community stands in solidarity with the Philippines. The devastating impact of forest fires and the ongoing drought is a global concern, highlighting the need for collective efforts to combat climate change and its consequences.

In conclusion, the Philippine Air Force’s plans for cloud seeding operations in Benguet reflect their commitment to addressing the forest fires that have ravaged the region. By leveraging innovative techniques and collaborating with relevant authorities, the PAF aims to suppress the fires and provide much-needed relief to the affected areas. These efforts serve as a reminder of the importance of proactive measures in mitigating the impact of climate-related disasters and protecting vulnerable communities.

Source: The Manila Times

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