No reduction in irrigation water despite dam repairs, NIA SAYS
SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ — The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has assured farmers that irrigation supply will not be reduced or cut while canals of the NIA-Upper River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS) are being rehabilitated.
Reacting to reports that the supply would be stopped in Nueva Ecija province next year due to the repair works, Cristino Castillo, NIA-UPRIIS manager of the dam and reservoir division, said Pantabangan Dam’s mandate was to provide irrigation water for as long as it could for the benefit of farmers.
“We are obliged to do it,” he said.
Losing irrigation supply
Hundreds of farmers in the towns of Cabiao and San Isidro approached their local officials regarding reports that they would lose irrigation supply for eight months next year.
They said the suspension would limit them to a single rice cropping.
Castillo, who attended a dialog with farmers in Cabiao, clarified that the rumored irrigation shutdown at Pantabangan was due to a suggestion floated by some contractors who wanted their work to proceed unimpeded.
“It’s understandable for the contractors to worry. There is usually only one month when irrigation canals have no water. If their repair work is delayed, they will be fined,” Castillo said.
He said NIA construction engineers had been consulting the contractors about ways to continue repairs without stopping irrigation flow.
“If it becomes necessary, only farms at the tail end of the irrigation service area may be affected during the dry season cropping,” he said.
Water level at Pantabangan Dam was measured at 190.75 meters above sea level on Wednesday.
The dam augments the irrigation needs of at least 190 hectares of rice land during this year’s wet season cropping.
The dam also serves farms in Nueva Ecija and parts of Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac provinces.
Members of irrigators’ associations here said workers hired to maintain the irrigation canals were laid off because their salaries were paid out of the irrigation service fees.
The fees paid by farmers were scrapped after the government had agreed to provide free irrigation.
“We agreed to contribute [money] for the hiring of workers to maintain the irrigation canals … or we will mobilize our members to do maintenance work on a voluntary basis,” said Wilfredo Bernardo, one of the officers of an irrigation association who attended the meeting with NIA officials. —Anselmo Roque
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