Thursday, August 27, 2015

Editorialby Ernesto T. Solidum

Road Constructions Damage Irrigation Projects

Infra development is a welcome sight if it considers existing economic projects equally important to human welfare. Vital consideration must be given to agriculture since it is the basic foundation of our economy. The on-going expansion of the Philippine Nautical Highway from Kalibo to Caticlan, Malay from a 2-lane highway to 4 invariably gobbles up concrete fences, houses, aging trees, waiting sheds and parking lots. Here, there is nothing we could do since the objective of the DPWH is to provide wholesome and desirable standard for securing the well being of motorists, the riding public and the pedestrians.

However, irrigation projects must not be sacrificed in the name of aesthetic and modern road infrastructure. Road contractors and engineers must conserve those main and lateral canals or structure of irrigation system that traverse or located alongside existing highways. It has been observed that where there are continuous irrigation flow from the source (gravity or pump) to the rice fields, the irrigation canal is methodically destroyed and never restored.
This is happening in gravity irrigation dam of Calimbajan, Makato where 15 hectares of rice land are covered. In Tangalan, two communal irrigation projects that used pumps to irrigate 61 hectares can no longer have irrigation services.

For the past 45 years, barangays Calimbajan, and Poblacion Makato, and Poblacion and Tagas, Tangalan have two rice cropping seasons with average yield of 3.9 metric tons per hectare per harvest. To facilitate irrigation water flew, farmers simply utilize the highway drainage canal and is very satisfactory. However, this abruptly ended when the highway was expanded early this year. As a result, not a single drop came from the farm ditches. Land preparation and transplanting of rice seedlings were delayed for two months. The paddy fields waited for gentle rain from heaven to drop.

In Bagto, Lezo where the lateral canal of NIA traverses the Kalibo Circumferential road, some 20 hectares of prime irrigated land were reverted to rain fed areas. Fortunately, NIA repaired the damaged main canal in Bigaa, Malinao where 667 hectares of rice lands in Lezo, Numancia, and Makato were previously affected.

A similar incident occurred at the extended runway of KIA where a main canal of NIA has been blocked by 300 meters of concrete. Engr. Rizalo Conception, former manager - Capiz-Aklan NIA said that a culvert structure could not be installed since there is no way of regular cleaning/maintenance considering its length and the danger of passing aircrafts.

Where there is wanton or deliberate disruption of irrigation services by DPWH, CAAP or its contractors, concerned Irrigators’ Associations must air their legitimate protests to Municipal Mayors for immediate appropriate action. Otherwise our small farmers could be marginalized and griped by poverty, which will also affect the consumers.

Aware of the problem faced by farmers, Calimbajan Brgy. Capt. Renilo T. Tubal submitted a Resolution urging NIA to construct a dam at Calimbajan-Pudiot boundary designed to irrigate 50-60 hectares of rice land and increase productivity. Fortunately, P600, 000 is initially released out of the total P2 million budget.

The loss of our irrigated rice lands due to tourism infra development (Kalibo Cercumferential Road, Nautical Highway and KIA) and the relentless illegal land conversions can have significant impact on rice self sufficiency. With an estimated 535,000 population of Aklan and the estimated 1.7 million visitors this year, our capacity to provide food can be jeopardized. SP member Soviet Russia A.  de la Cruz during a public hearing on August 7, 2015 averred that our surplus palay production is only 114,000 metric tons in 2014 while the average yearly decline over a 5 year period is 6,461 metric tons.

The protracted eight months El Nino phenomenon that will hit Aklan starting October this year will further exacerbate food and water supply. Sen. Chiz Escudero urged TESDA and DSWD to provide alternative jobs to farmers and mitigate impact of possible longest drought in Philippine history. We must act now before it’s too late. /MP

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