Sec. Francis â€œKikoâ€ Pangilinan vowed to pitch support for Boholâ€™s quest for cloud seeding in order to saveÂ Â big dams from drying up.
Pangilinan, presidential assistant for agriculture modernization, bared this last week in an ambush interview while he was on his way to the airport after he graced the inauguration of training center and region 6 and 7 anniversary celebration of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
In a bid to arrest the drying of big dams, officials are mulling for cloud seeding in El NiÃ±o-induced areas for possible rain.Â The proposed cloud-seeding activity to save rice lands from further destruction due to lack of water from irrigation dams.
Cloud seeding is a â€œtechnique of stimulating or enhancing precipitation by distributing dry ice crystals or silver iodide particles over developing storm clouds in a specific area of the atmosphere.â€
The situation alarmed farmers/irrigators of the damsâ€™ service areas. Farmers/irrigators would probably be suffering in the next planting season due to damsâ€™ serious condition.
Bohol has four major dams. Malinao in Pilar town with service area of 4,700 has.; Bayongan, San Miguel, 5,300 has.; Capayas, Ubay, 1,100 has.; and Talibon town, about 1,000 has.
Larry Pamugas, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Agriculturist office, bared that irrigation encountered some hitches as some â€œhard-headedâ€ farmer-irrigators have embarked on what he called as third rice cropping. Though they are maybe few but the use of water in the dam are compromised.
He also said that water flow to the rice farms could be controlled but some farmers tried to open up gates in an attempt to water their fields for the said cropping.
Pangilinan, former chair of the Senate agriculture committee, told the audience that â€œwe should treat the farmers with respect like our parents because theyâ€™re the ones who feed us.â€ He said that itâ€™s been long time that farmers, who he considers the backbone of the nation, were not given support they need.
â€œI have a job because of the farmers,â€ he said, adding that securing farmers is securing food.
He lamented that farmers are getting old since the average age of the farmers is 56-58 and educationalÂ is only up to grade four. And less young ones are going into farming because the income derived from farming is only about Php23,000/year. This proves theyâ€™re not being supported, he said.
As this developed, he urged agencies concerned to extend support necessary for the farmers to produce more. He said that the country cannot be like any countries belonging to Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), like Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam and others if agencies donâ€™t give importance of the farmers.
He cited as one concrete step in supporting the farmers is the provision of irrigation facilities. He expressed optimism that if only that agencies concerned come and work together agriculture could be improved.
Joining the NIA event were NIA administrator Engr. Florencio F. Padernal, NIA acting regional manager Mario Sande, Rep. Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado (2ndÂ dist), Gov. Edgar Chatto, City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II, Reps. Rene Relampagos and Arthur Yap were represented, officials of theÂ NationalÂ Food Administration (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), officers and members of the irrigators association of Cebu, Siquijor, Negros Oreintal aside from Bohol.
Engr. Florencio Padernal, administrator of the National Irrigation Administration assured farmer-irrigators of immediate implementation of the proposed upgrading of the Malinao dam in Pilar, Bohol.
The assurance Â came as farmer-irrigators have been claiming for the planned raising of the height of the irrigation facility in apparent bid to store more water in the earthfill type reservoir.
He said that the upgrading of the dam will be done as soon as the detailed design is finalized. But he did not mention when the said design will be completed.
The National Economic Development Authority (Neda) chaired by P-Noy approved the upgrading project at a cost of PhP653 million â€œto double the impounding capacity of Malinao Dam in earthquake-stricken Bohol province to sufficiently irrigate unserved and underserved areas.â€
The fund for Malinao upgrading is part of the total PhP62.3 billion for infrastructure projects â€œto improve the supply of waterâ€ including the national capital region, the report said.
Padernal graced last week the inauguration of NIAâ€™s training center along with Sec. Francis Pangilinan.
The NIA boss has bared his accomplishments under his stewardship. He said it used to be that only about 50% project have been done but it increased to 70% when he assumed office eight months ago. This is aside from 90% physical turnover last year, he added.
Padernal said that one of the ways he employed in changing and improving the lot of the NIA is dialogue. He said heâ€™ll be roaming around in three main islands of the country in next three months to conduct dialogues to find out how the irrigators work with NIA and benefited from the agencyâ€™s assistance and support.
He also bared that contracts are terminated and contractor are blacklisted to discipline them for refusal to tap or employ qualified irrigators in their projects.
Under his leadership, NIAâ€™s budget has been increased from Php24 billion last year to PhP28 billion. Now heâ€™s working to make it Php50 billion in 2016, he added.