The government should hire El Nino-stricken farmers in Tarlac to work on the 13.37-billion-peso while they cannot tend to their dry farms, senatorial re-electionist Kiko Pangilinan said.
“Habang naghihintay ang ating mga magsasaka ng paglipas ng El Nino para mabungkal na nila ang lupa, maiging magkaroon sila ng panandaliang trabaho sa pagpapatayo ng proyektong ito (While our farmers are waiting for El Nino to end so that they can start cultivating their land, it is best to hire them in temporary jobs for the construction of this project),” he said.
“Sa ganitong paraan, hindi sila natetengga, kumikita pa (In this way, they are busy and earning money),” said the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
The project seeks to irrigate 34,410 hectares of farmlands in Tarlac City and nine other Tarlac towns for 23,000 farmers. It has been stalled for 28 years due to the usual bureaucracy, and exacerbated by the Pinatubo eruption and changes in the administration.
When he was Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization and had control and supervision over the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the farmers in the area informed Pangilinan about the stalled project.
Pangilinan was able to untangle the project from bureaucratic shambles that kept it there since 1988, when the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) first gave its go-ahead to the project.
According to NIA, the first parts of the project, the construction of the P345-million 15-kilometer north main canal and the P75-million 20-kilometer San Miguel main canal, have been started. The two parts received its notice to proceed on March 23 and 22 respectively.
“The north main canal has a contract duration of 22 months, while the San Miguel main canal, 120 days. In both cases, NIA can hire our farmers for construction work. Let us provide them with a source of income while we wait for the rains,” Pangilinan said.
The Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project Phase II has a total contract duration of three years. It covers farmlands in the towns of of La Paz, Concepcion, San Jose, Capas, Victoria, Gerona, Pura, Ramos, and Paniqui, and Tarlac City.
It is expected to increase annual rice production in the covered area by almost threefold at 177.5 percent from 126,480 metric tons to 350,980 metric tons.
The project is one of the 402 irrigation projects turned over to farmers’ irrigation association in in July 2015.