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Drought forces Bulacan rice farmers to switch to veggie growing

05:18 AM July 15, 2019

CITY OF MALOLOS, Bulacan, Philippines — Rice farmers in Bulacan province may grow vegetables to cope with drought, as the water level at Angat Dam continues to plummet this close to the start of the planting season.

More than 250,000 farmers in Bulacan and Pampanga provinces are dependent on irrigation from Angat Dam.

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But on Sunday, the dam’s reservoir was again below its low critical elevation of 160 meters above sea level, dropping to 159.05 meters as of 11 a.m.

The level was 159.45 masl on Saturday after it rose to 162 masl in the first week of July due to heavy rains. The drought left the level plunging to 157.96 masl on June 27. The other time the dam posted its lowest elevation of 157.57 masl was on July 13, 2010.

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Not enough

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said it was releasing water stored at the Ipo and Bustos dams, also in Bulacan, on July 16 once the planting season started.

But that amount would not be enough for more than 200,000 farmers in 17 towns in Bulacan and five towns in Pampanga, said Ildefonso Canquin, president of a local farmers’ group.

Canguin said farmers may plant ampalaya instead, the same strategy they took to tide them over in 2010, because Angat could not serve their needs.

“Vegetables need only wet soil, unlike palay which needs soil that has been soaked in 3 inches of water,” he said. Other farmers may decide to take odd jobs like carpentry.

Growing vegetables will give farmers a much lower profit compared to rice production, although in their experience, “ampalaya” production earned better than planting other types of vegetables, he said.

Felix Robles, officer in charge of NIA water control coordinating unit in Bulacan, said the releases on July 16 would be discharged at a rate of 5 cubic meters per second.

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“Once we get enough rain we will be able to irrigate the whole area. If the water elevation at Angat Dam rises, it can support us,” he said.

“This month, 30 cms had been good enough with the help of rainfall and farmers’ cooperation. For now, around 40 percent of the fields are undergoing land-soaking preparations because of rain,” he said. —Carmela Reyes-Estrope

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TAGS: Angat Dam, Bulacan rice farmers, vegetable growing
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