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PIA Press Release
Friday, January 13, 2012

 

Feature: Magat Dam, the lifeblood of Isabela

by Thelma C. Bicarme and Melissa C. Agbisit

In the idyllic town of Ramon, Isabela, located some 350 kilometers north of Metro Manila, lies what is touted as one of the biggest dams in Asia— the Magat dam.

With its still waters and magnificent sunset, the Magat Dam is a favorite hang-out spot among local and foreign tourists. The dam is also the lifeblood of the Isabela, as more than 1.2 million residents rely on agriculture as the source of livelihood.

The dam was part of the Magat River Multi-Purpose Project which was based on a preliminary study conducted in 1973 by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), with the assistance of the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The construction of the Magat Dam and appurtenant structures was authorized by Presidential Decree 693 signed on May 7, 1975 by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos to increase the annual paddy production and corresponding per capita income of farmers, accelerate economic development through the generation of related agro-industrial activities, create employment opportunities and develop cheap source of power energy.

The completion of the project and its inauguration on October 27, 1982 marked the realization, if not the onset of the realization of all the project’s objectives.

Irrigation for 80,000 hectares of ricelands

The Magat Dam with its total storage capacity of 1.25 billion cubic meters at full supply level provides year round irrigation requirement for 80,000 hectares of ricelands in 17 municipalities and 2 cities in Isabela, three municipalities in Quirino Province, and one in Ifugao.

These ricelands are tilled by almost 65,000 farmers and have a potential of 8 million cavans of paddy rice production every cropping season or 480,000 cavans of milled rice at 65 percent recovery.

Prior to the construction of the Magat Dam, rice farmers in Isabela posted an average yield of 50 cavans per hectare, with their crops primarily rainfed. However, with the establishment of a reservoir-type irrigation system, the current average yield in the service area of the Magat River Integrated Irrigation is at 100 cavans per hectare. This is a remarkable improvement from the 50 cavans of the early years.

Hydro-electric power generation

Aside from providing irrigation water, the Magat Dam also became a primary source of power with the 360 megawatt Magat Hydro-Electric Power Plant (MHEPP) and the 6 megawatt Baligatan Hydro-Electric Power Plant (BHEPP).

Water from the Magat Reservoir passes through the turbines of the MHEPP to generate power before it goes to the supply canals to irrigate ricelands.

A portion of the power generated by BHEPP is used to operate the three pumping stations in MARIIS, one in Angadanan, (Division IV) which serves 661 hectares and two in Division III (4,989), one in Burgos which serves 4,989 hectares and the other one in Gamu which serves 2,885 hectares.

The three pumping stations serve a total of 5,650 hectares of Riceland in Isabela.

The MHEPP was originally owned and managed by the National Power Corporation until the former’s privatization in April 2007 when its operation was fully turned over to SN Abotiz Power Inc., a joint venture of a local company, Aboitiz Equity Venture (AEV), and the Norwegian SN Power Invest (SN Power). Power generated by the MHEPP provides electricity to a portion of the Luzon grid.

Magat Dam as a landmark tourist destination

The irrigation and power components of the Magat Dam have been fully developed and authorities are now considering its eco-tourism potential.

The Magat Dam Park Development Plan drawn by the MARIIS-Dam and Reservoir Division included the construction of a Multi-Purpose Hall, Conference Room, Coffee Shop/Restaurant and Souvenir Store, Resort/Pool Area and Skating Rink.

Should the plan be implemented, it would create more employment opportunities for the Isabelinos. (TCB/MCA/PIA 2)

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