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By Ed G. Yu
NAGA CITY, July 22 (PNA) --- Like the abundant water flowing to their rice farms, farmers in rice producing towns in the Bicol region are overflowing with joy because they now enjoy bountiful harvest as a result of better and dependable networks of irrigation systems, whose rehabilitations were completed and continue to be undertaken by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) under the agriculture and irrigation program of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Silvestre Bonto, president of the National Confederation of Irrigators Association (NCIA), lauded the Arroyo administration for giving priority to the rehabilitation and restoration of defective irrigation systems in the country, particularly in Bicol. Bonto's group, NCIA, is the nationwide organization of irrigators association with over 700,000 members.

"Bicolano farmers are now very happy. They had better harvest for the past several cropping seasons because of better irrigation service from newly repaired irrigation systems in the six Bicol provinces," Bonto said. Engr. William Ragodon, NIA Bicol regional manager, said the Bicol region has been allocated some P876 million this year for the repairs of 12 national irrigation systems (NIS) and 131 communal irrigation systems (CIS). These projects will improve irrigation supply to 16,500 hectares of ricelands that will benefit some 3,800 farmers. Close to 10,000 jobs will also be created as a result of the rehabilitation works on these irrigation systems.

"Part of that amount, some P290 million, is the initial release intended for the P1.9 billion Libmanan-Cabusao Dam Project (LCDP). Work on the dam component of LCDP had already started on May 24, 2009," Ragodon said.

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By Ed G. Yu
NAGA CITY --- Some 15,400 farmers tilling 5,512 hectares of rice farms in five towns and one city in Camarines Sur stand to suffer P375 million in palay losses due to the limit imposed by the Buhi municipal government in the release of water for irrigation from Lake Buhi.

NIA Bicol Director William P. Ragodon said because of the meddling of the Buhi local government in the release of water from the NIA-owned Lake Buhi Control Structure, the palay crops in the towns of Bato, Nabua, Baao, Bula, Pili and Iriga City may end up damaged due to insufficient water.

Ragodon said that the order of Buhi Mayor Rey Lacoste to NIA to stop releasing water from the lake below elevation 82.30 meters prompted the agency to rotate its water delivery schedule starting Feb. 5 to supply the water requirement of the 5,512 hectares of rice lands.

Ragodon, on Feb. 16 met with leaders of irrigators associations, representatives of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), operator of the Barit Hydropower Plant, Buhi local officials, and other water users of Lake Buhi, to come up with measures in preparation for the El Nino phenomenon.

During the meeting, Buhi Mayor Rey Lacoste remained adamant that he will not allow the release of water from the lake below elevation 82.30 meters to safeguard the investment of his constituents who are engaged in tilapia culture inside the numerous fish cages and fish pens in the lake.

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