Some 500 farmers from the hilly towns of Bustos and Pandi in Bulacan are seeking government help after two irrigation pumps of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) broke down causing irreparable damage to half of the 630 hectares of farm lands and some P25-million worth of rice crops.
The farmers, represented by Ildefonso Canquin, chairman of the Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Council (PAFC) of Bulacan and Restituto Delara, chairman of the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council (MAFC- Bustos) went to Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado’s office in Malolos on Friday afternoon to ask for assistance so they can save what remains of their crops.
Delara said two 350 horse-power pumps that distribute irrigation water to rice lands in Bustos and Pandi conked out several weeks ago. Half of the farm lands in these towns have already been planted with palay which are now in fruiting stage but have been damaged from what the farmers call “water-stress” for lack of irrigation.
“During the dry season, the farmers spend about P40,000 per hectare to grow their crops so half of this is lost now and the other half of the crops is in danger of going to waste if the irrigation pumps are not repaired or replaced in a week’s time,” Delara said.
Alvarado immediately called the attention of NIA Region III and asked to replace the 40-year old pumps that also irrigate the farm lands on the Angat aside from those in Pandi and Bustos.
The Pandi Irrigators Association, also present at the meeting, said while the provincial government is coordinating with NIA they can lend five nine-horse power emergency water pumps.
The governor also sought the assistance of the Department of Agriculture regional office that promised to lend 10 nine horse-power pumping machines to help the farmers save their remaining crops.
The farmers said before the pumps broke down, NIA gave them the go signal to farm their lands while one of the irrigation pumps was under repair; eventually the remaining pump also broke down leaving their farms in distress.
Alvarado learned the contractor who was to repair the pumps transferred the job to a sub-contractor thus prolonging the process. He also revealed that the irrigation canals in the province need to be upgraded with concrete linings.
Meanwhile, he informed the farmers that Rep. Gavini Pancho has included in his 2018 budget proposal the funds to purchase new irrigation pumps but for now they will need to settle for repairs.
“These old machines need to be replaced so that government money is not wasted on their repair,” Alvarado said.