CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY , Philippines – Despite the claim that rice production in the municipality of Baungon, Bukidnon has decreased due to the siphoning of water of the town’s irrigation canal by a bulk water supplier, there was actually an increase in land converted to rice farm, a National Irrigation Administration-10 (NIA-10) official said.
Engr. Kienzel Glenn Carrillo, officer-in-charge of NIA-10’s Bubunawan River Irrigation System (RIS) office based in Baungon, said in an interview Wednesday that from 2013 to 2018, land devoted to rice production in Baungon has gone up from 132 hectares in 2013 to 212 hectares in 2018.
In 2014, it went further up by 159 hectares, but the number of hectares has remained the same the following year. Land used for rice production has declined to 151 hectares in 2016, but rose again in 2017 by 194 hectares.
Baungon has a total land area of 32,834 hectares.
Per data from NIA-10, the Bubunawan RIS, servicing at least six Baungon villages, has a total irrigated area of 194.56 hectares for rice, 53 hectares for annual crops, and four hectares for other crops.
Just recently, lawyer Ernie Palanan alleged that Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc.’s tapping of water from NIA-10’s irrigation canal in Baungon has caused the drop in rice production in said town.
Incidentally, Palanan is the election officer of Surigao del Sur.
In news reports, Palanan has represented himself as the spokesperson of a farmers’ group who he claimed was affected by the contract between NIA-10 and Rio Verde for the selling of irrigation water to the latter.
Because of the deal that allowed Rio Verde to siphon water from NIA-10’s irrigation canal in Baungon, Palanan has blamed the company for the reduction of rice yield of farmers in the municipality.
He said NIA-10 sold about 40,000 cubic meters of water to Rio Verde at 13 centavos per cubic meter.
According to Rio Verde in a statement, it buys only 1,667 cubic meters of water per hour, or 40,000 per day, from NIA-10 at 17 centavos per cubic meter. The volume of water flowing in the Bubunawan river is 79,200 cubic meters per hour.
The firm said it is only “extracting two percent of the available water flowing along the Bubunawan river.”
In his Jan. 23, 2018 letter to NIA-10 regional irrigation manager Ali Satol, NIA-10 head of the agency’s north satellite office Raul Montebon has assured that despite the selling of water to Rio Verde there is still enough supply for the municipality’s farmers.
Engr. Ulysses Bracero, Rio Verde acting plant manager, said the company did not renew its five-year contract with NIA-10 after it terminated on January this year.
In fact, Bracero said, Rio Verde has sealed off its pipeline that connected it to an irrigation canal in Barangay Imbatug, Baungon.
Reacting to Palanan’s allegations, Baungon Mayor Pedro Alvarez, said fewer lands in Baungon were being planted with rice since the people prefer to plant other crops such as cassava and corn.
Aside from preference of other crops over rice, the mayor said many farmers are just content with leasing their lands to multinational corporations which plant cash crops.
Alvarez is the son of Jose Alvarez, the governor of Palawan and chairman of Rio Verde Water Corp., which owns Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. and Cebu Bulk Water Consortium Inc.
Although he is related to the elder Alvarez, the mayor has clarified that he is not involved in the business aspect of Rio Verde.(davaotoday.com)