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PIA Press Release
Monday, January 16, 2012


Major irrigation system in S. Cotabato to shut down in May; agri sector braces for production loss

by Dani Doguiles

KORONADAL CITY, Jan. 16 (PIA) -- Around 12,000 hectares of farmlands in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces are expected to lose water supply for at least four months with the shutdown of Ala River Irrigation System (RIS), the biggest irrigation system in the area, in May this year.

Engr. Ramon Bugacia, irrigation management supervisor of National Irrigation Administration- South Cotabato, announced operations of the two dams of Ala RIS, namely: Dam 1 in Colonggolo, Surallah and Dam 2 in Bai Sirafinang, Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat will be closed effective May 1 until September or October to give way to several rehabilitation projects intended to restore the efficiency of the irrigation system.

“The program of work for Ala [RIS] is mainly focused on the main diversion, which requires total shutdown of the dams,” Bugacia said.

A report from NIA-South Cotabato shows that P138,225,000 have been allocated for the rehabilitation works of the dam this year.

Additional P8.6 million is allocated for rehabilitation projects in the Isulan, Sultan Kudarat portion of the irrigation system.

Bugacia said, the P138-M is intended for protection work on the dams, repair of the mechanical systems that take care of the closing and opening of the water gates, rehabilitation of the main canals, construction of additional structures and check structures that would extend the coverage area of the irrigation system.

P40 milion fund have been downloaded to the regional office of NIA, which should be released soon pending submission of a program of work by NIA-South Cotabato, Bugacia added.

Bugacia appealed to the affected farmers -- around 8,850 farm families -- “to make the necessary sacrifice for few months” while the dams are undergoing repairs.

“In the long run, we will all benefit if the efficiency level of the dams is restored to its original capacity,” he said.

South Cotabato Provincial Agriculturist Reynaldo Legaste said, areas in south Cotabato that will be affected by the closure include upper valley towns of Surallah, Sto. Niño, Banga, and Norala involving an estimated 9,000 hectares.

About 2,000 hectares of these could still be cultivated for rice production using other water sources.

Loss in rice production in South Cotabato is estimated at around 23,000 metric tons, equal to about three months of consumption of the entire province, he said.

In Sultan Kudarat province, areas that will experience loss of water supply are the towns of Bagumbayan and Isulan.

As per directive by Department of Agriculture-12 Regional Executive Director Amalia Jayag-Datukan, provincial agricultural offices are now preparing interventions to help farm families who will be affected.

Legaste said, they have proposed three measures to mitigate expected production loss, namely: introduction of upland crops as alternate to rice; seed subsidy by the provincial government for about 2,000 hectares and another seed subsidy for 2,000 hectares by DA-12; and 90-day buffer stocking by the National Food Authority.

Alternative crops that farmers may grown in lieu of rice, Legaste explained, include corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, and vegetables of okra, squash, upo, patola, and ampalaya.

“We will meet with hybrid corn companies and link them with IAs (irrigators associations) for possible opportunities and other programs the companies could offer to the farmers,” he said.

“DA (12) is also willing to give assistance for white corn production. We will allocate 1,000 hectares of white corn,” he added.

OPAG assured they will arrange market for white corn with Cebu, with whom South Cotabato has recently signed sisterhood agreement.

Engr. Bugacia added, some of the affected farmers could also be hired as laborers during the project implementation.

Rehabilitative works in Ala RIS will continue until 2013, he added, but projects next year would not require shutdown of the dams. (PIA 12)

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