Thursday, September 17, 2015

NIA-Bicol completes 3 irrigation systems; starts 2 new projects
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 15 (PNA) -– After inaugurating three recently-completed irrigation projects in Camarines Sur, the regional office for Bicol of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) based in Naga City has started two more for the completion of the coverage of over 850-hectare rice lands in the province.

Completed were the Php10.4-million Caromas Communal Irrigation System (CIS); the Php1.6-million CIS; and the Php4.3-million CIS -- all in the municipality of Pili, Camarines Sur’s provincial capital.

These projects were inaugurated and turned over to local irrigators' associations (IAs) last Sept. 12 in a short ceremonies led by NIA Regional Director Vicente Vicmudo and graced by NIA Board of Directors member Silver Bonto and Rep. Leni Robredo of the province’s 3rd congressional district.

On the same day, the party proceeded to Ocampo town for the groundbreaking rites of the Php22-million Cagmanaba Pump Irrigation Project and the Php10-million Cabariwan communal Irrigation Project (CRIP), NIA regional spokesman Ed Yu told the Philippines News Agency here on Tuesday.

All five projects would benefit some 555 farmers tilling a total of 853 hectares of paddies, according to Yu.

All newly completed, ongoing and upcoming irrigation projects in the region, he said, are provided by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III with an allocation this year of over Php535 million.

A total of 212 irrigation projects across the region’s six provinces are financed by this current budget allocation.

The total amount is divided among the region’s six provinces, with Camarines Sur getting the biggest share of Php166 million; followed by Albay, Php135 million; Sorsogon, Php110.7 million; Camarines Norte, Php57 million; Masbate, Php40.6 million; and Catanduanes, Php26 million.

This fund, Yu said, covers the establishment of new irrigation structures for 378 hectares and restoration, repair and rehabilitation of paddy water services for 2,700 hectares.

Vicmudo said the implementation of this year’s projects in Bicol are more focused on restoration and improvement of existing irrigation systems as they can be immediately done since they no longer need feasibility studies as required by the construction of new ones.

The region, he said, has a total of 239,660 hectares of irrigable land while the total area of already-irrigated rice farms is at 130,313 hectares as of early this year.

The NIA, Vicmudo said, is using this year’s budget to maximize the region’s contribution to the vigorous pursuit of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III of its Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) for the country.

The program carries with it the frontloading of investments, particularly in irrigation, focused on cheaper and shorter gestating small-scale systems as an important feature, he said.

The FSSP includes as one of its components the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) Rice Program whose beginning of implementation in 2011 marked the start of Bicol’s picking up of bountiful harvests from its vast rice lands.

The province of Camarines Sur has the biggest rice area with 158,348 hectares, supplying 45 percent of the regional rice regional requirement, followed by Albay with 48,638 hectares.

Masbate ranks third in terms of area devoted to rice with 39,148 hectares; Sorsogon, 33,804 hectares; Camarines Norte, 20,671; and Catanduanes, 12,993 hectares.

The second year of Agri-Pinoy program alone, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), has already proven in the region its worth as a key player in the FSSP, the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

With the vision of a food-secure society where farmers enjoy decent and rising standards of living, the FSSP 2011-2016 aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples. Self-sufficiency means satisfying domestic requirements for food, seeds, processing and feeds through domestic production.

The key strategies applied by the program are concentrated in raising farmers' productivity and competitiveness; enhancing economic incentives and enabling mechanisms; and managing food staples consumption.

These strategies did well for Bicol as in 2013, the second year of the program, the region, insofar as rice production was concerned vis-à-vis regional rice consumption, was able to hit the target and even came up with a surplus.

That year saw a production growth rate of 5.96 percent over the previous year for a 102.19-percent RSS level, which means Bicolano farmers produced around 2.2 percent more than the amount local consumers can eat.

That RSS level was based on the regional production of over one million metric tons (MT) as against the regional consumption of around 822,000 MT.

In 2014, almost the same level of RSS was achieved, according to the DA’s regional office for Bicol. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd