LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 8 (PNA) -- Amid challenges on how to improve and sustain the rice production program in Bicol, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has stepped up its irrigation projects to provide water systems to thousands of hectares of rice farms across the region.
The NIA said at least 77 irrigation facilities were built, repaired and maintained, according to Ed Yu, NIA regional spokesperson.
Yu said the new, rehabilitated and restored irrigated areas last year contributed significantly in the increase in palay production.
In a phone interview Monday, he said these projects irrigated 197 hectares of previously rain-fed areas, restored irrigation service to 1,093 hectares of rice farms, and repaired irrigation facilities and structures in 1,576 hectares of ricelands, benefiting 2,420 farmers.
Quoting a NIA report, Yu said the 77 completed irrigation projects are located in: Albay, 25; Camarines Norte, 7; Camarines Sur, 17; Masbate, 5; and Sorsogon, 23.
In Bicol, there are 239,660 hectares of ricelands, 137,317 hectares or 57 percent of which are being serviced by the NIA.
The agency estimates that the NIA service area can produce 11 million sacks of palay per harvest based on the 80-cavan-per-hectare ratio.
The NIA-Bicol official claimed that the completed projects have also generated about Php56 million in revenues in terms of irrigation fees collected last year.
Yu said the completed 77 projects represented a 74.24-percent accomplishment.
Last year, the NIA implemented a total of 158 projects with a total allocation of Php490.2 million.
Aside from the 77 completed projects, 75 projects are still ongoing construction and expected to be finished by end of March this year, while works in six projects have not yet started.
“We could have completed more projects last year had funds for them been released early. Funds for our 2015 projects were released by the Department of Budget and Management only in the last week of July, thus, construction works on the projects began only in August. But despite having only five months left to finish the projects by December, we were able to achieve a 74.24-percent overall physical accomplishment last year,” Yu said.
The NIA Bicol’s physical accomplishment in 2015 of 74.24 percent was higher than the 62.06-percent accomplishment in 2014.
In terms of 2015 financial accomplishment, NIA Bicol earned a total income of Php56.7 million, consisting of: Php37.9 million in irrigation service fees (ISF); Php7.5 million in amortizations from communal and pump irrigation systems (CIS/PIS); Php2.3 million in farmers’ equity contributions; Php120,000 in equipment rental; and Php11 million in bidding documents.
Last year’s ISF collection of Php37.9 million was higher by 6.8 percent compared to 2014 collection of Php35.5 million, while the CIS/PIS amortization posted an increase of 9 percent from Php6.9 million in 2014 to to Php7.5 million in 2015.
Overall, the total income of NIA-Bicol of Php56.7 million was 2.47-percent lower compared to its income in 2014 of Php58 million.
The decrease in revenues last year was attributed significantly to lower miscellaneous income from bidding documents, which went down from Php13.7 million in 2014 to Php11 million in 2015 as the allocation for irrigation projects in 2014 of Php704.4 million was much bigger compared to Php490.2-million budget last year.
Yu said the agency is confronted with operational challenges such as the illegal diversion of irrigation water and land conversions.
“These illegal practices are being monitored closely and being addressed through the cooperation of various irrigators’ associations,” he said.
The NIA spokesperson cited a case where landowners, whose lands are near irrigation systems, are building resorts with swimming pools and divert the water system to their resorts.
While on the problem of land conversion, the NIA central office has issued a new memorandum that certificates of irrigation coverage or non-irrigation coverage for purposes of land conversion should be reviewed and approved by the NIA administrator.
According to Yu, prior to this new memorandum the certification is issued by the NIA head in the province for land below five hectares; while for lands above five hectares, it is the regional manager who issues the certification.
For the non-payment of irrigation service fee, the low collection of ISF in Bicol resulted in lower funds for operation and maintenance activities of the national and communal irrigation systems.
So far this year, the NIA has collected some Php38 million in ISF fees, representing a 50-percent collection efficiency, Yu said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS