SAN JOSE, Tarlac: The dream of local residents (Tarlaqueños) to have more than 34,000 hectares of their agricultural lands irrigated through a multi-billion-peso dam project hangs until the Sangguniang Bayan (SB or municipal council) here re-classifies a relocation site for the families that will be displaced.
But municipal officials point out that for the project to be realized, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has to apply for the re-classification of land in Barangay Sula where around 970 families from Barangay Maamot would be relocated.
“Once the NIA files an application, we at the SB could then make a move to re-classify the area from agricultural to residential land so the displaced families could easily transfer there,” said Councilor Eliezer Dupitas.
NIA officials have yet to submit such application, Dupitas added, even if they have already built housing units for would be displaced families to make way for the dam project. “This is a form of by-passing the SB,” he added.
“We are not against development. We just want to follow the process,” Dupitas stressed, noting that even Mayor Jose Yap Jr. is open to the project that would benefit his constituents but without altering the environment.
Once opened, local officials fear that over flowing water from the P13.37-billion Balog-Balog Multi-Purpose (BBMP) dam would submerge a huge part of the area that would endanger the lives of residents in nearby places, especially those who live within the host village, including indigenous peoples.
The mega dam, a 105.5-meter high with three cascading sections each at 25 meters high and a crest length of 1.4 kilometers, will have a storage capacity of 560 million cubic meters and occupy 28,076 hectares as watershed.
Amid these concerns, NIA gave the assurance that families to be affected by the project will be given assistance, particularly a “disturbance pay” and a resettlement site for their smooth relocation prior to the construction of BBMP.
The agency said that once completed, the megadam is expected to provide year-round irrigation to farmlands in the towns of Paniqui, Pura, Ramos, Victoria, Gerona, San Jose, La Paz, Capas, Concepcion and Tarlac City.
It is also aimed to uplift the lives of farmers, increase agricultural production and mitigate flooding in low-lying areas.
The NIA pointed out that the dam is projected to increase rice production by nearly 178 percent from 126,480 metric tons to 350,980 metric tons that will support at least 23,000 farmers and the rice per capita consumption of the Tarlaqueños as well as provide inland fish production among affected families.
The project would generate at least 43.5 megawatts of electricity through a hydro-electric facility, the NIA added.