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Cloud seeding sought to feed dams

Agri group says Pangasinan reservoir losing water at alarming rate

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines—A group of farmers and agriculture sector players said it would ask the Department of Agriculture to resort to cloud seeding over Agno River basin if water level at the reservoir of San Roque Dam in San Manuel town continued to drop in the next seven days.

Rosendo So, head of the group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), said at the rate the dam’s water level had been falling in the past few days, it may soon hit its critical level.

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He said that although parts of Pangasinan and Benguet provinces have been experiencing heavy rains in the past days, these have not increased the level of water in the dam’s reservoir.

Agno River basin covers an area of 5,809.3 square kilometers, half of which is a watershed in the Cordillera mountains in Benguet.

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At 6 a.m. on Wednesday, the dam’s water elevation was 238.04 meters above sea level (masl), which was 26 centimeters lower than the 238.30 masl recorded the previous day.

Virgilio Garcia, a hydrologist and chief of National Power Corp.’s Agno River flood forecasting and warning system, said at its present level, the dam still has enough water for power generation and irrigation.

The dam generates electricity for San Roque Power Corp. which it supplies to the Luzon power grid during peak hours.

The water used in power generation is released and saved in a reregulating pond below the dam’s spillway gates that in turn irrigates some 20,000 hectares of farms in the province.

Garcia said the dam’s water level was still more than 13 meters above its critical level of 225 masl. The dam recorded its lowest water level in 2007, when it dropped to 225.42 masl.

Oftociano Manalo, head of the Ilocos Region Confederation of Irrigators’ Associations, said he had recommended early “wet cropping” in drought-hit areas of Pangasinan.

Rice farmers in seven villages in the towns of Malasiqui and Sta. Barbara lost their crops to drought in March.

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“We recommended this because no one is using the water from San Roque Dam now because everyone had just harvested. This will also be a chance for drought-hit farmers to recoup their losses from the drought,” Manalo said.

He said that San Roque Dam and the National Irrigation Administration officials also assured his group that there was sufficient water despite the absence of rain until the end of June.

Nestor Batalla, provincial government rice program coordinator, said that the El Niño would affect farmers whose farms depend on rains for irrigation.

“It will mean a delayed planting season for them,” said Batalla in a telephone interview. Rice planting in rain-fed areas usually begins in July.

Pangasinan, which is the country’s third rice-producing province next to Nueva Ecija and Isabela provinces, has an irrigated area of 167,389 ha and a rain-fed area of 80,146.28 ha.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas had asked Catholics in Pangasinan province to pray the oratio imperata (obligatory prayer) against calamities and “invoke the protection of God against every evil and against all troubles.”

“We have been forewarned by experts and scientists that the rest of the year 2014 may be challenging months for the country bringing exceptionally strong typhoons, rains and winds. Let us turn to prayer and beg the Lord for deliverance and protection,” said Villegas in a circular posted on the archdiocese’s website.

Villegas’ appeal may have been prompted by the state weather bureau’s warning last week that with the El Niño phenomenon making its presence felt in June, there will be drier conditions, decreased rainfall and stronger storms until early next year.

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TAGS: Agno River, Benguet, Cordillera mountains, Department of Agriculture, Rosendo So, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, San Manuel town, San Roque Dam, San Roque Power Corp., Sinag, Virgilio Garcia
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