Mild El NiÃ±o had minimal impact on the rice farmers in Central Visayas, as how the Department of Agriculture (DA)-7 downplayed the situation.
However, farmers in affected areas in Bohol expressed that the overall yield might still be at acceptable quantity compared to the previous annual record, but those who rely on their individual harvest have difficulty making both ends meet this time.
DA-7 Technical Director for Research and Regulation Joel Elumba cited that 80-90 percent of palay in Central Visayas had been harvested already, hinting there is no reason to be alarmed on the impact of the mild El NiÃ±o.
For his part, Provincial Agriculturistâ€™s Office in-charge Larry Pamugas advised the farmers to postpone planting palay this time even with some rainy days on a summer.
This is considering the forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration PAGASA relayed by its Bohol forecaster Leonard Samar that there might be rains in May, but the mild El NiÃ±o is expected to occur again either by June or July and might extend up towards latter part of the year.
In addition, the regional office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA)-7 in Tagbilaran City also reported that the water level in one of the major dams here, Malinao Dam in Pilar, has dropped too low.
Farmers can, however, proceed with planting crops that can stand the dry spell like cassava, mango, and watermelon, among others, according to DA-7.
Farmers in the towns of Pilar, Carmen, Mabini, Ubay and Guindulman expressed alarm when their palay went up in fire because of the extreme heat in their areas.
The small-time farmers expressed lament that they had no way to recover the cost of the farm inputs for the previous planting season and considered it losses.
The Provincial Agriculturistâ€™s Office received requests for assistance from barangay officials in affected areas.
On this, the provincial government assured to conduct rounds of cloudseeding operations costing P2.3 million when the cumulu-nimbus clouds form in time of the next mild El NiÃ±o either by June or July.
The provincial government already complied with the requisites of the cloudseeding and it is just the proper timing that the technical working group awaits.
On the other hand, some sectors working with the provincial government continued to undertake steps to stabilize the waterworks systems and the irrigation systems in far-flung barangays to be ready for similar situations in the future.
Upgrading the Malinao Dam is one of the solutions identified by the provincial government since the project had been under study about 10 years ago
The Korean government funded the feasibility study and detailed engineering design by Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water) and Dohwa Consulting and Engineering Corporation (Dohwa Co.) for the Malinao Dam upgrading project in the amount of US$1 million as of 2009.
The feasibility study then showed that the project would double the water storage capacity of Malinao dam from 5 million cubic meters to 10 million cubic meters which could irrigate an additional 2,730 hectares of riceland in northeast Bohol.
Based on the study, the project could cost P800 million, based on the dollar exchange rate by then.
The cost excluded the environmental improvement that involves trails and garden on the dam crest by the intake tower, parking lot by the reservoir area, and an observatory, forestation at the back of the dam, park and sports facilities, and an ecological park.
NIA-7 Regional Manager Mario Sande cited the upgrading of Malinao Dam could be a long-term solution to the problem of irrigation during dry season, since the dam by then could store more water that can irrigate the service areas even in months with rain.
The upgrading will improve the capacity of Malinao Dam from the present 5.99 million cubic meters- -5 million cubic meters from its active reservoir and 0.99 million cubic meters from its dead reservoir, to a total of 9.1 million cubic meters- -8.11 from the active and 0.99 from the dead reservoir.
The improvement will make Malinao Dam capable of reaching additional 920 hectares.
The feasibility study also showed that an upgraded Malinao Dam would be instrumental in increasing and stabilizing the farmerâ€™s income by 70 percent and in meeting the increasing food consumption demand in Bohol.
Bohol has existing irrigation systems under Bohol Irrigation Project (BHIP) phase I and II. Phase I covers the Malinao System finished in 1997 and Japanese grant-funded Capayas System in 1991, and phase II that covers the Bayongan System finished in 2008.
However, these could hardly provide sufficient irrigation water to Malinao Dam, because financial constraints and land disputes left some areas undeveloped, lack of irrigation facilities like farm ditch, and left leveling works in some areas unfinished.
On this, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the provincial government requested for BHIP phase III which will cover the upgrading of Malinao Dam.
Improvement of Malinao Dam is also expected to trigger a series of communal irrigation systems.
The NIA record showed that BHIP-I irrigates 4,960 hectares and BHIP II irrigates 5,400 hectares of ricefields in Pilar, Alicia, Ubay, Trinidad, San Miguel, and Dagohoy.
The proposed improvement includes a small hydro power plant at the outlet end of Malinao Dam and diversion chute between Malinao and Bayongan dams that would enhance the efficiency of water resource utilization.
This gives an opportunity to include the rehabilitation of Pamacsalan watershed as earlier proposed.