Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Albay solon eyes big dams to irrigate farmlands during dry spells
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales (Third District) cited the need for big impounding dams that could be used for the irrigation of rice farmlands, especially during dry spells, particularly in the third district towns of the province or those located northwest of this city.

“The third district is considered the food basket or rice granary of the province where (such) irrigation system is most needed,” said Gonzales.

The third district of Albay covers the towns of Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon, as well as Pio Duran town, which is southwest of Legazpi.

“These are the things we have to study and further attend to so the plight of the farmers could be improved,” he said.

Gonzales said the need for sufficient irrigation systems to improve rice production and ease the poverty of Albay’s farmers came up during his discussion with Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bicol Director Abelardo Bragas.

He said 60 to 70 percent of the community in Albay are farmers who “directly or indirectly” depend on agriculture.

Gonzales said there is no need for farmers to expand their land production areas to get the highest productivity but what is needed is water to produce more cavans of rice.

“If there is sufficient irrigation system the province will have an increased rice production,” he said.

The Albay lawmaker cited that an unirrigated farmland with an area of one hectare normally produces 80 cavans of rice.

He said the same farmland if well irrigated could generate a harvest of nearly twice the unirrigated farmland, or from 120 to 150 cavans per hectare.

“During the rainy season the farmers do not have much problem in farming but during the dry season almost half of the land area cannot be cultivated because of the problem of water," added Gonzales.

He said the help of DA, National Irrigation Administration and Department of Public Works and Highways is needed for the construction of additional “big impounding dams” that could help farmers during El Niño or dry season.

Gonzales cited the peculiar situation in Albay, particularly in the third district towns, which serve as a catchbasin of floodwaters during the rainy season “but also have a big problem on where to get irrigation water during the dry season or El Niño.”

He said there is heavy flood in Albay when it rains but the excessive rainwater is not utilized during the dry season.(Bumabaha nga sa Albay kapag umuulan pero di naman nagagamit ang bahang ito...)

“So we have to balance it through a big watershed that will impound this water and use it in the coming days,” said Gonzales.

He said he has already allocated hundreds of millions of pesos for the farmers’ irrigation systems but there is need for “more comprehensive projects” by putting up big impounding dams like the Pantabangan Dam (in Nueva Ecija) and La Mesa Dam(in Quezon City).

Gonzales said the water in these dams could be used for irrigation, household and industrial needs.

He said there were watersheds constructed in Albay decades ago, some of them around 50 years old like the Bahamas dam in Nasisi Village in Ligao City and Ogson dam and Sta. Cruz dam in Libon town.

“There is also a need to dredge the silted watershed in the province as well as upgrade, modernize and retrofit it,” he added.

Gonzales said aside from adequate irrigation facilities the rice farmers should be helped in enhancing their production through technical help, new farming tools and equipment and provision of high value seeds.

“DA should give priority to helping the farmers increase their rice and corn production so the government could have sufficient stock and be able to rid of its importation program,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said during his discussion with Bragas they planned to have joint undertakings that will address the farmers’ problems not only in Albay but also throughout the Bicol region.

Cynthia Perdiz, director of the Philippine Statistical Authority, in a report made public early in August, said there was a “drop in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector” in 2015.

She explained this came about while notable growth was seen in the industry and service sectors that fueled Bicol’s growth rate of 8.4 percent and made the region the fastest growing among all regions in the country last year.

Perdiz said last year saw the onset of El Nino which affected the agricultural sector’s performance and reduced rice production.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said DA is refocusing its thrust to the production of more food rather than the building of farm-to-market roads under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Piñol made the statement when he came to DA’s regional center in Pili, Camarines Sur last July 12 for a consultation with Bicol governors, congressmen and agriculture officials. (PNA) BNB/GVR/JH/CBD