Bicol gets lower budget for irrigation as rice yield surges in last 2 years

January 20, 2015 6:47 am 

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 19 (PNA) – Government allocation for Bicol’s irrigation gets smaller every year but the regional office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) based in Naga City says, “it’s okay”.

From Php1.2 billion in 2013, it was down to Php725 million last year, then to Php535 million this year.

The diminishing amount, according to NIA regional office spokesman Eduardo Yu, is easily understandable as the area in the region needing new irrigation coverage is also shrinking each year owing to the completion of projects earlier financed by bigger allocations during the past two years.

Anyway, a total of 212 irrigation projects across the region’s six provinces will be financed by this current budget allocation, Yu said here over the weekend.

These projects worth a total of Php535.216 million are for the construction of new irrigation systems, rehabilitation of existing but run-down facilities and restoration of non-operating ones.

The total amount is divided among the region’s six provinces, with Camarines Sur getting the biggest share of Php166 million, followed by Albay, Php135 million; Sorsogon, Php110.7 million; Camarines Norte, Php57 million; Masbate, Php40.6 million; and Catanduanes, P26 million.

Camarines Sur’s allocation is for the restoration and rehabilitation works to maximize the irrigation of a total of around 911 hectares and the construction of new structures to service an additional 62 hectares of irrigable rice fields.

This new fund for Bicol, Yu said, covers the establishment of new irrigation structures for 378 hectares and restoration, repair and rehabilitation of paddy water services for 2,700 hectares, maximizing the coverage of about 318,000 hectares this year from 255,00 hectares in 2012.

With this, the region is expected to sustain its rice self-sufficient (RSS) status first achieved in 2013 that saw a production growth rate of 5.96 percent over 2012 for a 102.19 percent RSS level, which means Bicolano farmers produced around 2.2 percent more than the amount local consumers could eat.

That RSS level was based on the regional production of over one million metric tons (MT) as against the regional consumption of around 822,000 MT.

In 2014, almost the same level of RSS was achieved, according to an earlier report of the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, which placed the total production at about 1.3 million MT for an over 100-percent RSS.

Vicente Vicmodo, the NIA regional director, said the implementation of this year’s projects in Bicol are more focused on restoration and improvement of existing irrigation systems as they could be immediately done since they no longer need feasibility studies as required by the construction of new ones.

Although smaller than the previous years’ budget, he said, this new allocation for Bicol could already maximize the region’s contribution to the vigorous pursuit of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III of its Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) for the country.

The program carries with it the frontloading of investments, particularly on irrigation, focused on cheaper and shorter-gestating small-scale systems as an important feature, Vicmodo said.

FSSP includes as one of its components the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) Rice Program whose beginning of implementation in 2011 marked the start of Bicol’s picking up of bountiful harvests from its vast rice lands.

The province of Camarines Sur has the biggest rice area with 158,348 hectares, supplying 45 percent of the regional rice requirement, followed by Albay with 48,638 hectares.

Masbate ranks third in terms of area devoted to rice with 39,148 hectares; Sorsogon 33,804 hectares, Camarines Norte, 20,671 hectares and Catanduanes 12,993 hectares.

In fact, on the second year of Agri-Pinoy alone, the program has already proven in the region its worth as a key player in the FSSP, the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

With the vision of a food-secured society where farmers enjoy decent and rising standards of living, the FSSP 2011-2016 aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples.

Self-sufficiency means satisfying domestic requirements for food, seeds, processing, and feeds through domestic production.

The key strategies applied by the program are concentrated on raising farmers' productivity and competitiveness; enhancing economic incentives and enabling mechanisms; and managing food staples consumption.

These strategies did well for Bicol as in 2013, the second year of the program, the region, insofar as rice production was concerned vis-à-vis regional rice consumption, was able to hit the target and even came up with a surplus.

Through the all-out support being provided by the present administration to the NIA and DA, Vicmodo said, the country is not far from achieving RSS by this year when it attains the production level of 20.44 million MT expected as the NIA gets near to the completion of new irrigation systems for the 250,000-hectare irrigable areas in the country.

For Bicol, the NIA is almost finished with its construction of the Ibingan Irrigation Project in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon, covering 700 hectares of rice field.

One completed project is the construction of the Php300-million Sibagat Small Reservoir Irrigation Project in Minalabac, Camarines Sur, covering a total of 262 hectares of rice land within the Bicol River Basin. (PNA)



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