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PIA Press Release

Farmers say GMA coming seals lid of "dam stink"

by Rey Anthony Chiu

Tagbilaran City (12 October) -- AS President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo commissioned the Bohol Irrigation Project Stage II (BHIP II) October 12, farmers groups here believed her coming would be to seal the lid of the damned project tinted with corruption.

"It would be a clear manipulation so that the controversy surrounding the expensive project would quiet down," they said in a press statement signed by Bayan secretary general John Ruiz III.

The President came here, October 12 amidst strong protests launched by Hugpong sa Mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL) and Bayan. HUMABOL is a farmer group under the umbrella of the Bayan, and their farmer members in San Miguel, Ubay and Trinidad have been directly affected have perceived the corruption on the project and the inefficiency of the multi-million irrigation facility.

Subject to the thick of protests is the P2.384B Bohol Irrigation Project Phase II or the Bayongan Project, which that got into national attention after a national television taunted it as one of the most expensive pieces of government infrastructure.

The project has since incurred P1.2B more in cost over-runs, making it one of the most expensive irrigation projects in the country.

BHIP II Project manager Engr. Modesto Membreve has since dismissed the allegations.

Bayan recalled that the dam was also allocated before the election year, like another equally stinking Talibon facility which has spent P165M.

Boholanos even speculate that National Economic Development Authority Secretary Romulo Neri's transfer to the Commission on Higher Education is pretty tied up with the request for further allocations for the dam.

Rumors circulated in Bohol said it was the Boholano economic wiz who turned down the request for further funds because it was simply excessive.

The facility, an evolution of the irrigation component of the Bohol Integrated Area Development Project in 1972 is one of the three facilities conceived to irrigate some 10,000 hectares of farmlands in the northeastern part of Bohol.

The latest of the two-stage implementation plan, the Bayongan Dam (BHIP II) came after the 4.6B yen Malinao Dam (BHIP I) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency funded Capayas Dam.

The protests in Bohol have fairly been centered on the alleged inefficiency of the facility, which is designed to be supplied by the spillover of the Malinao Dam.

"If it's designed to get its water supply from Malinao, even the Malinao could only serve a little more than a thousand hectares from its target of 4900, because it doesn't have the water needed for it to be fully operational?" asked a farmer who is supposed to benefit from the earlier Malinao dam.

The National Irrigation Administration has admitted in its project brief that the Bayongan reservoir indeed has very small catchment area that most of its water supply will come from Malinao reservoir.

NIA estimates 63.5 million cubic meter of water per year from Malinao is transferred to Bayongan through a canal earlier built to accommodate such discharge.

HUMABOL members alleged that Malinao, which has designed to irrigate 4960 hectares have not fully served its catchment because the water levels at the dam proved to be insufficient. They agreed when asked about the earlier dam's success.

They said the facility failed to irrigate more than a thousand hectares.

"How could Malinao give what it does not have in the first place?" they asked.

Bayan Bohol secretary general John Ruiz III claimed that the Bayongan has no dependable source of water and the supposed excess water from Malinao Dam in Pilar, a local newspaper reports.

Even environmentalists here have raised concern over the lack of forest in the watershed to irrigate both Malinao and Bayongan.

Just as farmers whose lots have been affected by the Malinao Dam doubt about the facility's capacity to irrigate as promised, those Humabol farmers at the Bayongan catchment think the new infrastructure would "fail to service its target with a huge margin."

As this developed, Bayan Bohol secretary general John Ruiz III in a press statement claimed that the Bayongan facility has dislocated about 300 farmer families.

The NIA project brief states that the Bayongan reservoir covers barangays Santo Niņo, Camanaga and Bayongan in San Miguel, La Suerte of Pilar and Los Angeles and Buenavista in Ubay.

Other than the water reliability and sustainability issue, farmers also claim that now, more than a thousand hectares of previously productive farmlands have been rendered unproductive due to the land leveling in beneficiary areas.

"Worse, hundreds of farmers acquired huge debts as payments of the land leveling service that led to its unproductivity instead," Bayan leader Ruiz claimed in a local newspaper. (PIA) [top]

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