3 giant dams seen as key to attaining Phl’s rice self-sufficiency in 2013

By Jason de Asis


CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, January 4, 2011–To increase rice production and meet the government’s target of rice self-sufficiency and zero importation by 2013, three giant dams summed to P38 billion will be provided by the Aquino administration according to National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Administrator Antonio Nangel.


These are the Balog-Balog Irrigation Project, the Balintingon Multi-purpose Irrigation Project and the Mal-Mar Irrigation Projects which are crucial to the administration’s ambitious 2013 goal aimed to generate and to restore 250,000 hectares over the next three years.


Nangel said that the P16-billion Balog-Balog project is projected to start construction in the third quarter of 2011 which will benefit farmers in President Aquino’s home province of Tarlac and  in Zambales, adding that it is programmed to generate irrigation to 20,000 hectares of farmlands and contribute to improve irrigation service to an additional 20,000 hectares in Nueva Ecija and Pampanga.


“The Balintingon dam project covering the eastern portion of Nueva Ecija and Bulacan is projected to start construction in two years time and will irrigate some 18,800 hectares,” Nangel said while the P6.9-billion Mal-Mar Project has been approved  last December 20 by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and is programmed to irrigate 9,700 hectares in Maguindanao and Cotabato. He said the construction phase will start in 2012.


“The government is on track to meet its 2013 target, particularly with the completion of the San Roque Dam which will potentially irrigate 20,000 hectares,” he said and it is considered the agency’s single biggest accomplishment in 2010.


Nangel cited that they (NIA) also have on-going projects in Visayas and Mindanao which have been ordered prioritized by President Aquino and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.    


He added that they are optimistic that NIA will be able to jump-start its irrigation projects in 2011 particularly with the approval of its annual budget of P12.79 billion for this year.


For this year, he said, they are targeting to restore 46,000 hectares of farmlands with the cooperation of local government units and top NIA officials.


“Under the rice self-sufficiency plan, the government will have to generate 46,000 hectares for 2011 and 204,000 hectares up to 2013. To achieve the target, the total harvest by 2014 must be at around 21.2 million metric tons, up from the 17.1 million metric tons harvested in 2010,” Nangel furthered.


To meet the target, Nangel said that they are embarking on new cropping technology, including the adoption of the so-called rationing technology and third crop in various areas of the country following the success of such technology at the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems, the operator of the giant Pantabangan Dam, considered the biggest among the national irrigation systems run by NIA.


Nangel, who was UPRIIS operations manager before he became administrator, explained that the technology involves the spraying of one bag of triple 14 fertilizers after harvest. After 45 days, the rice plants will be ready for harvest.


He explained that the technology yielded an additional 20 cavans per hectare for farmers in Central Luzon and a third harvest that yielded 100 cavans per hectare. Because of its tremendous success, he added that the program has already been replicated in Leyte, Regions 10, 11 and 13.   


Nangel said the strategies should be generation of new areas, multi-cropping and increased yield to successfully achieve an importation-free scenario in 2013, adding that the DA and the NIA are also tapping the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in utilizing rice seeds for planting. (Jason de Asis)