Farmers say GMA coming
sealed lid of â€œdam stink
AS President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo commissioned the Bohol Irrigation Project Stage II (BHIP II) October 12, farmers groups here believed her coming was to seal the lid of the damned project tinted with corruption.
â€œIt is a clear manipulation so that the controversy surrounding the expensive project would quiet down,â€ they said in a press statement signed by Bayan secretary general John Ruiz III.
The President came here, October 12 amidst strong protests launched by Hugpong sa Mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL) and Bayan. HUMABOL is a farmer group under the umbrella of the Bayan, and their farmer members in San Miguel, Ubay and Trinidad have been directly affected, perceived corruption on the project and the inefficiency of the multi-million irrigation facility.
Subject to the thick of protests is the P2.384B Bohol Irrigation Project Phase II or the Bayongan Project, which got national attention after a giant television network made a documentary, taunting it as one of the â€œmost expensive pieces of government infrastructure.â€
The project has since incurred P1.2B more in cost over-runs, making it one of the most costly irrigation projects in the country.
BHIP II Project manager Engr. Modesto Membreve has since dismissed the allegations. Devaluation and delay in the implementation of the project cost the budget shortfall, NIA engineers said.
Many Boholanos speculate that National Economic Development Authority Secretary Romulo Neriâ€™s transfer to the Commission on Higher Education was an offshoot of his refusal to approve the request for further allocations for the dam.
The facility, an evolution of the irrigation component of the Bohol Integrated Area Development Project in 1972 is one of the three facilities conceived to irrigate some 10,000 hectares of farmlands in the northeastern part of Bohol.
The latest of the two-stage implementation plan, the Bayongan Dam (BHIP II) came after the Y4.6B yen Malinao Dam (BHIP I) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funded Capayas Dam.
The protests in Bohol have fairly been centered on the alleged inefficiency of the facility, whose design depends on the water supply spillover of the Malinao Dam.
â€œIf itâ€™s designed to get its water supply from Malinao, it is ridiculous. Even the Malinao dam could only serve a little more than a thousand hectares from its original target of 4,900 because it doesnâ€™t have enough water needed for it to be fully operational,â€ a farmer, who is supposed to benefit from the first dam (Malinao) said.
Many farmers, mostly in Dagohoy are complaining that their lands leveled in 1996 anticipating water from Malinao, have remained idle and unproductive for the past ten years. Loss of income from their farmlands is caused by failure of the dam to deliver water to its target-areas bloated beyond its actual capacity, farmers lamented.
Aside from that, farmersâ€™ woes did not end there. Their land titles were allegedly taken by NIA and are only to be returned if they can repay the cost incurred on the leveling of their lands. They are being held hostage and accountable to an obligation that was imposed on them but have not, in return, yielded products for their lands, they said.
The National Irrigation Administration has admitted in its project brief that the Bayongan reservoir indeed has very small catchment area that most of its water supply will come from Malinao reservoir.
NIA estimates 63.5 million cubic meter of water per year from Malinao will be transferred to Bayongan through a canal earlier built to accommodate such discharge.
HUMABOL members alleged that Malinao dam facility failed to irrigate more than a thousand hectares. Designed to irrigate 4,960 hectares, the first dam have not fully served its target areas because the water level at the dam proved to be insufficient.
â€œHow could then Malinao dam give what it does not have in the first place?â€ they asked.