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Published by the Bohol Chronicle newspaper

Boholano officials led by Gov. Erico Aumentado and 3,605 farmer-families represented by 16 irrigator-associations have appealed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to complete the Bohol Irrigation Project Stage 2 (BHIP 2).

The appeal came in the form of a letter signed by Aumentado, Vice Gov. Julius Caesar Herrera, Bohol's three congressmen and a former congressman, the Provincial Board including its ex-officio members and resolutions of the 16 irrigator-associations.

Aumentado spearheaded the appeal after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) balked at releasing more funds to complete the Bayongan Dam and appurtenances of BHIP 2, saying its construction was allegedly illegal as claimed by the authority's legal staff.

But, the governor pointed out, contrary to the NEDA legal staff position, Government Corporate Counsel Alberto Agra ruled - in response to the consulta of the National Irrigation Administration's Officer-in-Charge Administrator Marcelino Tugaoen Jr. - that the BHIP 2 contracts with Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. and the Kurimoto Joint Venture are valid and legal.

"In fact, [NEDA] Sec. Romulo Neri, in a memorandum to [then Agriculture] Sec. Luis Lorenzo Jr., informed the latter that the President approved the DA-NIA's request for the implementation of the BHIP 2 to proceed," the letter stated.

Aumentado attached to the letter a copy of Agra's Opinion No. 120, S. 2007. The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel is the counsel for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) including NIA, he said.

He also attached the resolutions of the various farmer-irrigators associations that petitioned the President for the completion and operation of BHIP 2, which can irrigate 5,300 hectares of riceland in its service areas in the towns of San Miguel, Trinidad and Ubay.

Neri earlier charged that BHIP 2 is among the costliest dams the country ever constructed.

Aumentado justified this, and more.

He said the cost overruns of BHIP 2 is due to several factors like the foreign exchange rate of US$1 vs. P40 at the time the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) loan agreement was signed, and US$1 vs. P54 at the time of bidding; the corresponding price escalation; the NIA fees in accordance with its charter; and the delay in the implementation thereon due to Official Development Assistance (ODA) and NEDA requirements.
     
NIA also implemented the value engineering component (VEC) Neri had suggested to mitigate the high cost of the project construction. The provincial government also included the Bayongan Dam and appurtenances as agri-tourism destination together with the Malinao Dam, Capayas Dam, Ubay Agri-Park, Ubay Stock Farm, the Bohol Experimental Station and the Central Visayas Agriculture Research Center, all in the northeastern basin of the province, in the Bohol Tourism Master Plan, he added.

For purposes of the VEC, NIA-BHIP 2 engaged the services of Engr. Arsenio Mesiona
as coordinator.

More importantly, the provincial government has undertaken more aggressive promotion of hybrid rice production in the BHIP 1 and 2 service areas including the implementation of a Plant-Now-Pay-Later Program for farmer-participants through the Bohol Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative, Inc. (BOFAMCO), he explained.

Comparison "We are sad to note that BHIP 2 is being questioned by NEDA for its 52.23% cost overrun and alleged P600,000 per hectare development cost but NEDA does not raise a howl to the following projects whose cost per hectare amounted to about P1 million as found during the 15th Annual ODA Portfolio Review," the letter stated.

The governor referred to the Banaoang Pump Irrigation Project (BPIP) in Ilocos Sur funded with ODA assistance from China, the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP) in Nueva Ecija and the Help for Catubig Agricultural Advancement Project (HCAAP) in Eastern Samar both funded by JBIC.

The review showed that the named projects registered cost overruns of 92.53, 27.83, and 18.17 percent respectively.

Earlier on, NEDA authorized the implementation and completion of the Can-asujan Irrigation Project in Carcar, Cebu that the President inaugurated recently - one of the core projects under the Southern Philippines Irrigation Sector Project (SPISP) - costing P623,000,000 with a service area of about 700 hectares - or a project cost of almost P1 million per hectare.

Inauguration Water collected at the BHIP 2 Bayongan Dam has risen to 38 meters. By August, it is estimated to hit 42 meters high - enough for its inauguration. At this level, when released, the water can already reach the canals servicing the 5,300 hectares of riceland. Opening of the gate valve by the President has always
been her main activity during inaugurations of irrigation dams.

While the water level nears inauguration level, the governor admits that there is a need to continue the ground leveling or construction of rice paddies for the full utilization of the huge deposit of water amounting to 34.5 million cubic meters at the Bayongan Dam.

"We trust that Your Excellency will use BHIP 2 as an instrument to make Bohol the rice granary of Central Visayas - a vision which is now in the threshold of realization under your presidency," the letter concluded.

The resolutions Among the reasons advanced in the resolutions is that at this stage when the project is already more than 90 percent finished, if not completed which is not an intelligent decision, more would be lost than gained especially by the farmers who have pined for so long for increased production and therefore improve their lot.

The farmers are even expecting that they can already use the water from the dam within the year or the next cropping season.

A decision not to complete the project would be unwise, another resolution stated, as it would put to waste the trainings, workshops, on-the-job trainings and demonstrations they have painstakingly learned in order to become good NIA partners as mandated by the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), not to mention wasting NIA funds as well as their time and efforts. - July 15, 2007

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