By: DANNY O. CALLEJA
Over 85 percent, representing 3,215 hectares of rice farms in Catanduanes, is already covered by government-provided irrigation facilities, leaving only 555 hectares of the island-province’s potential irrigable area needing a stable supply of water, according to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
Based on NIA figures, Catanduanes province ranks second highest at 85.28 percent in terms of level of irrigation development among the six provinces in Bicol Region as of end of 2014, Eduardo Yu, the agency’s regional spokesman for Bicol said in a statement reaching the Philippine News Agency here over the weekend. “Of the total potential irrigable area of 3,770 hectares in the province, some 3,215 hectares have already been provided with irrigation services, leaving only 555 hectares to be developed,” he said. This development comes with the recent completion by the NIA regional office based in Naga City of 16 communal irrigation projects (CIP) costing Php39 million, which are now benefiting a total of 739 farmers in eight of the 11 towns of the province, Yu said.
In the same statement, NIA Regional Director Vicente Vicmudo said the finished projects benefited 56 hectares of former rainfed areas and restored and repaired irrigation service to 376 hectares of rice farms. Vicmudo said each of the municipalities of San Andres and Viga got four of these newly completed projects while each of Virac and Pandan got two and one each for Baras, Bato, Bagamanoc and Panganiban for a total of 16 CIPs. These finished projects were turned over to various irrigators' associations (IA) during ceremonies graced by Catanduanes Gov. Araceli Wong and Vice Gov. Jose Teves at the Catanduanes provincial Capitol Building in Virac last Saturday.
On the same day, the ceremonial and simultaneous groundbreaking activities for the 15 projects for 2015 were held at the dam site of Cabugao Communal Irrigation System in Bato town, attended by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the province’s lone district and local officials, Yu said. These incoming projects worth Php24 million, intended for seven Catanduanes municipalities, are set to begin implementation this month to benefit an additional of 145 farmers tilling 105 hectares of rice farms, he said. These municipalities are Viga town, getting six projects; Bato, Baras and Gigmoto, two each; and one each for Panganiban, Bagamanoc and San Andres. “NIA is firmly committed to uplift the lives of rice farmers in the province and across the Bicol Region through a sustained irrigation development in partnership with IAs and local officials,” Yu quoted Vicmudo as saying during the turn-over rites.
Last week, the NIA regional office also turned over a newly completed Php18-million irrigation facility to farmers and local officials in the municipality of Milagros in the other Bicol’s island-province of Masbate. Called the Matagbac Communal Irrigation Project (CIP), the facility located in Barangay Matagbac, Milagros, is expected to boost the rice production capability of some 200 local farmers. For 2015, the NIA is undertaking the construction and rehabilitation of 21 irrigation projects in the province of Masbate with a total allocation of Php40.6 million, which would irrigate at least 56 hectares of previously unirrigated ricelands and restore and rehabilitate irrigation facilities in 276 hectares. Masbate’s level of irrigation development as of Dec. 31, 2014 is merely 27.72 percent, the lowest among the six Bicol provinces. All newly completed, ongoing and upcoming irrigation projects in the region are provided by the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino 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. 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. Anyway, agriculture officials say that with this, the region is already expected to sustain its rice self-sufficient (RSS) status first achieved in 2013 that saw a production growth rate of 5.96 percent over 2012 for a 102.19-percent RSS level. This means Bicolano farmers produced around 2.2 percent more than the amount local consumers could 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 an earlier report of the regional office of the Department of Agriculture based in Pili, Camarines Sur, which placed the total production at about 1.3 million MT for an over 100-percent RSS. Yu said the implementation of this year’s projects in Bicol are more focused on restoration and improvement of existing irrigation systems as they could be immediately done since they no longer need feasibility studies as required by the construction of new ones. (PNA)