|Balog-Balog Dam Project.|
Sunday, July 17, 2011
P18.4-B dam project to maximize Tarlac rice production says NIA executives
TARLAC CITY, July 17, 2011-A top official of the National Irrigation Administration said here yesterday that the construction of the long-stalled P18.4-billion Balog-Balog Multi-purpose Project (BBMP) would enable Tarlac – home province of President Aquino – to move out of its unenviable position as irrigation tail-ender in Central Luzon and one of the provinces with the lowest irrigation output in the entire country.
Vicente R. Vicmudo, BBMP project manager revealed that the project, which is programmed to irrigate 34,410 hectares of agricultural lands in Tarlac, would boost agricultural productivity and mitigate flooding in low-lying areas in the province.
Vicmudo said that while Tarlac has 102,000 hectares in agricultural lands, which makes it a major production center in Central Luzon, only 32,670 hectares or 29 percent of its 114,530-hectare irrigable area are presently irrigated, the lowest irrigation development percentage-wise among the seven provinces in the region, noting that Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Aurora and Pampanga have considerably high percentage of irrigation development with each reaching up to 70 percent.
“Nueva Ecija and Bulacan are tied at first in terms of the percentage of irrigation development at 74 percent each while Tarlac is dead-last, mired in seventh place with a lowly 29 percent irrigation output,” Vicmudo said, citing statistics from the NIA’s corporate planning (Corplan) division.
The region’s rice granary and onion bowl in Nueva Ecija has total irrigable area of 208,640 hectares of which 155,422 hectares are service areas while Bulacan has a total irrigable area of 51,970 hectares of which 38,225 hectares are service areas.
Aurora has an existing service area of 11,920 hectares out of its total irrigable area of 16,630 hectares, representing 72 percent while Pampanga has an existing service area of 39,900 hectares, representing 70 percent of its total irrigable area of 57,370 hectares.
Bataan has a total service area of 7,817 hectares out of its total irrigable area of 11,520 hectares (68 percent) while Zambales is way behind with only 12,503 hectares out of its total irrigable area of 38,200 hectares serviced by irrigation (33 percent).
Vicmudo said that the irrigation sector in Tarlac is so underdeveloped that at least 81,860 hectares of lands still need to be developed, followed by Nueva Ecija with 53,218 hectares, Zambales (25,967 has.), Pampanga (17,470 has.), Bulacan (13,745 has.), Aurora (4,710 has.) and Bataan (3,703 has.).
Vicmudo said if the fact that Tarlac brings up the rear in terms of irrigation development in the region were not enough, the province also ranks as no. 6 among the provinces with the lowest irrigation output in the entire country. He attributed the low irrigation rate of Tarlac to the eruptions of
in 1991 which wiped out some 14,000 hectares of irrigated farmlands in the province. Mt. Pinatubo
“This is a pity considering that Tarlac is being primed up as a major food production center in the region. That’s why we need to bring the BBMP to fruition to pump-prime the agricultural economy in Tarlac,” he said, adding that the government should undertake the BBMP not only to restore old areas devastated by the lahar flows in the heavily silted O’Donnel and Tarlac rivers but also to generate new areas.
Vicmudo clarified that the BBMP – which is being supported by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, NIA administrator Antonio Nangel, Gov. Victor Yap and other local officials in the province - is not a political project as insinuated by critics who claimed it was being pursued because it is located in President Aquino’s turf.
“The development of the Balog-Balog Dam must be pursued and completed under the administration of President Aquino not because it is located in his own province and thus, is perceived by critics as a political project but because it is extremely necessary as it is the only major source of irrigation in the province. It’s not a political whim,” he said.
The BBMP was conceived during the term of Aquino’s late mother, then-President Corazon Aquino. But it was only implemented in 1999 starting Phase 1 involving the development of 12,475 hectares at a cost of P2.362 billion.
Phase 2 of the project, covering the period 2012-2017 involves the development of 21,935 hectares of farmlands at a cost of P16.095 billion.
The BBMP involves construction of a 113.5-meter high rockfill dam and a 1,800-hectare reservoir with a storage capacity of 625 million cubic meters and a power plant with an installed capacity of 43.5 megawatts. Its other features include construction of 433.25-meter long diversion tunnel and a 368.39-meter power tunnel and provision for flood control and inland fisheries production.
The project intends to rehabilitate and improve existing irrigation canals to irrigate 8,600 hectares in the service area of the Tarlac River Irrigation and 5,700 hectares in the San Miguel-O’Donnel River Irrigation System (Smoris) area, implement a resettlement program for 600 affected families and strengthen 130 irrigators’ associations for the efficient operation and maintenance of the irrigation system.
“This project would increase cropping intensity in the impact zone from 120 percent to 190 percent, thus, increasing crop production and farm income. It would also generate jobs in the on-farm and off-farm levels and boost the eco-tourism industry in province,” Vicmudo said.
The project would benefit 23,000 farmers and irrigate 34,410 hectares in the province once completed. (Jason de Asis)
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