DAGUPAN CITY — Despite the rains, some 600 hectares of rice land in eastern Pangasinan cannot be cultivated during the current planting season as no irrigation water is flowing in the canals of the Agno River Integrated Service Irrigation Project (ARISIP) whose expansion project is still going on.
Provincial Agriculturist Dalisay Moya, during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas (KBP) chapter forum in Dagupan on Thursday, said affected farmers came to her office the day before, saying NIA did not keep its promise to deliver water starting June 12.
She said that NIA promised to deliver water on June 12, then reset this to June 15, but no irrigation water came as the gate of the main canal of ARISIP remained close because expansion work on the system is still being done by its contractor.
Because of the non-delivery of irrigation water, rice planting season in a large area in rice producing eastern and central Pangasinan had been delayed for one month and would have a big impact on the province’s bid to retain its Rice Achiever’s Award given yearly by the Department of Agriculture, Moya said.
Moya revealed that farmers in the affected areas incurred additional losses in rice seedlings that they sowed in beds that had already matured and overgrown simply because they can not be transplanted in the fields for lack of irrigation water.
She said these rice seedlings of certified variety are now given up for lost and should be replaced if irrigation water will soon be released by NIA, granting that farmers can source out additional seeds from the Department of Agriculture.
“The rice seedlings have aged like senior citizens and would be discarded. Rice seedlings should be transplanted 15 to 26 days after the seeds are sown,” she said.
Officials and members of irrigators associations from various villages in eastern and central Pangasinan trooped to Moya’s office in Sta. Barbara town last Wednesday to ask help in getting assurance from NIA when it will finally deliver irrigation water.
Moya said NIA gave a new date of July 31 in finally releasing water and expressed hope it would keep up with its word otherwise the affected farmers would incur more losses.
She noted that although it is now rainy season in Pangasinan, rains are coming scantily, hinting this could be the effect of climate change that is why farmers still depend on irrigation water coming from the canals of NIA.
There are 180,000 hectares of rice land all over Pangasinan, only 55 percent or 100,000 hectares are irrigated and the rest (45 percent) or 80,000 hectares are rainfed.
Noting that 45 percent of the farm lands in Pangasinan are still dependent from the rains, the provincial government built 32 communal irrigation projects and distributed 267 shallow tube wells as well as water pumps to farm lands in the tail end of existing national irrigation systems.
In their dialogue with Moya, farmers denounced NIA for timing the expansion project of ARISIP during the start of the rice planting season when fields need more water. lvmicua/PNA-northboundasia.com