Friday, January 27, 2017

Farmers in Albay’s rice bowl areas do 'bayanihan' to restore dikes ruined by 'Nina'
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LIGAO CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA)— In Albay’s third congressional district composed of Ligao City and the towns of Oas, Polangui and Libon, also known as the province’s rice bowl areas, farmers have been resorting to “bayanihan” to restore washed- out earth dikes and save what was left of the agricultural crops destroyed by typhoon Nina last month.

Albay third district Rep. Fernando Gonzales, along with local officials, irrigators associations and farmers, are doing bayanihan, a Filipino custom which is derived from the Filipino word “bayan” that refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.

Gonzales said the ruined earth dikes are being reconstructed by sandbagging to divert the water to the irrigation dam and address the need for water supply of the rice lands of the South Quinale Irrigators’ Association.

“These efforts were achieved through bayanihan and at no cost to the government,” he said.

In Barangay (village) Busac, Oas town, bayanihan is headed by village chairwoman Lorna Sergio, who has resorted to the “food-for-work” scheme to restore the earth dike.

“This earth dike is essential in the accumulation of water supply at the irrigation dam and its restoration is very urgent for the water supply needs of the rice lands in Oas, Polangui and Libon,” said Gonzales.

He said in the third district, the farmers, along with their local officials in the city, municipal and barangay levels have also been declogging the irrigation canals aside from sandbagging activities.

Gonzales said the “food-for-work” scheme is being utilized in all these rice bowl areas to hasten face-lifting of the destroyed earth dikes.

Eduardo Yu, spokesman of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), in an interview, said in the Bicol region, the government needs PHP158.7 million to rehabilitate the irrigation facilities damaged by typhoon Nina in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

He said there were 8,888 farmers affected and 7,221 hectares of riceland destroyed in the four provinces due to the typhoon.

Among the four provinces, Albay and Camarines Sur, which are the rice granaries in the Bicol region, had the most number of farmers affected and the biggest area of rice lands affected.

Vicente R. Vicmudo, NIA director in Bicol, said there is an urgent need to rehabilitate the devastated irrigation projects in the region to bring back “rice sufficiency” in Bicol.

He said that among the six Bicol provinces, Camarines Sur is the region’s top rice producer and has been ranking sixth nationwide in rice production from 2014 to 2016.

“Half of the province’s (Camarines Sur) land area is allotted for rice production,” said Vicmundo.

Next to Camarines Sur as top rice producer in Bicol is Albay province.

“Unfortunately many irrigation facilities were destroyed (in Albay). That’s why we need to build back the irrigation facilities as soon as possible,” he said. (PNA) FPV/GVR/RBB/CBD