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Agno farmers stand on irrigation
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Posted: August 9, 2004
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Position Paper on the Irrigation Needs of Pangasinan

A call to the National Irrigation Administration and other government agencies to consider the demand of the farmers for a pro-people irrigation project

Tignay Dagiti Mannalon A Mangwayawaya Ti Agno (Alliance of Peasants to Free the Agno, TIMMAWA) is an alliance of farmers along the upstream and downstream Agno River that are affected by the San Roque Multi-purpose Dam Project.

TIMMAWA, together with their allied organizations and individuals, are calling for an irrigation project that will serve the interest of the people and for an irrigation that will have no adverse effect on the environment, lives and livelihood of the people. This position paper will serve as guide to any irrigation project that will be constructed in the province of Pangasinan.

1. Resolve the Outstanding Issues Regarding the San Roque Dam.

The San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam is a project that purportedly produces electricity and being operated by the San Roque Power Corporation and the government agency, National Power Corporation. Included in the project are flood-control component and an irrigation component that will be administered by government agencies like Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA) respectively. The San Roque Dam’s electric generation component has been operating recently and other project connected to it like irrigation and flood control is being pushed through.

The San Roque Dam operated recently and other projects connected to it carry on despite unresolved outstanding issues regarding the project. Some of the major issues raised are the following:

a. Lack of a thorough consultation in Pangasinan and Benguet on the possible adverse and long-term effect on the environment, livelihood and safety of lives of the people that are directly and indirectly affected. The San Roque Dam is situated in close proximity to three earthquake fault lines that may have serious effect on the dam if the earthquake fault line moves endangering the lives especially in the downstream area.

b. Thousands of hectares of farmlands were acquired by the construction of the dam resulting to numerous farmers and people that lost their land and livelihood. Goldpanning activities in which thousands of goldpanners rely their livelihood were also lost due to the construction of the dam. Farmers and goldpanners who lost to their livelihood are yet to be compensated and right now, affected people are living in poverty and still waiting for sustainable livelihood from their former livelihood that was lost.

c. The San Roque Dam is operating without a clear flood control component. The dam is the one being blamed by many people that caused the recent destructive floods in the Pangasinan resulting to widespread damage of farmlands and properties.

d. The greatly boasted largest dam in Southeast Asia resulted in the extensive loss of rich agricultural lands and forestlands due to land-use conversion with the construction of the damsite, reservoir and other structures connected to the dam. Instead of providing genuine land reform and improving agricultural lands, the large dam itself became an instrument that grabs lands to farmers and the affected communities are now experiencing problems in food security.

TIMMAWA and other allied organizations, individuals and communities believe that the San Roque Dam doesn’t have a positive effect on the people. In line with this, TIMMAWA calls for the cease of operation of the dam, decommission the dam, and rehabilitate the lands that were damaged. The organization cannot allow any project connected to the dam, like the irrigation component, to continue unless the issues mentioned above is not yet resolved.

2. An irrigation project that is not connected to the dam.

TIMMAWA believes that any irrigation on San Roque Dam, directed or indirectly connected, will not be an efficient irrigation instead will further destroy lands, livelihood and even endanger lives of the people.

With the experience of the people of Pangasinan on the Ambuclao and Binga dams, which are both located at the upstream Agno river, flooding are being experienced by the province when water is released even in the slightest rains because of dam siltation due to mining activities in the upper Agno River. An irrigation that is connected to the dam will definitely cause flooding in the farmlands since uncontrollable rainwater that will be released by the San Roque Dam, just like with recent typhoons in which the dam released water contributing to the swelling of the Agno River.

Another issue is the siltation and pollution level of Agno River that flows from mining activities in the upstream of the river that might have an effect on the water quality that will flow to the farmlands. Siltation and mine-tailings might flow towards the fields through an irrigation that is connected to the San Roque Dam. Furthermore, the quality of water that will come from the irrigation of the dam contains chemicals and heavy metals that may be harmful to the health of the people and will definitely have an effect on the crops and other farm outputs. The characteristic of the water flowing from the dam may not be a good source of irrigation.

3. Democratic consultation processes on any irrigation project

In any project that will have a big impact, directly or indirectly, on the condition, livelihood and situation of the affected community and individuals, it is the right of the concerned people to be consulted and to take part in the formation of important decisions. In any irrigation project, a democratic, efficient and sufficient consultation process should be implemented, especially to the directly affected community and individuals. The following are the demands of the organization regarding the consultation processes.

a. Attain a mutually agreed upon consultation process. All consultation process should have the common consent of all stakeholders, affected community, experts on the projects and concerned non-government organizations.

b. All information available and needed documents should be disclosed to all parties concerned, even before any consultation. All parties consulted should be informed of the agenda of meetings and should be given in advance a copy of papers and reference materials that will be discussed.

c. Ensure transparency and accountability on information needed by the party consulted that will be used in any studies that will be crucial for the viability of the project.

d. Formation or taking into service an agreed upon third party group or organization that will independently evaluate the project.

e. Provide enough time to prepare on the consultations and evaluation.

f. Continuous consultation in every stage of the project.

g. The result of the consultation and recommendation should be implemented on the actual output of the project.

Together with a democratic consultation process, transparency on contracts and financial status of the project should also be ensured. Formulation of measures to avoid a common practice of corruption among implementing agencies should also be an agenda on the consultation process.

4. The call for irrigation

First of all, TIMMAWA is against a macro-level irrigation project that does not have an assurance that farmers and irrigators will benefit from a project, like the proposed design of the ARIIP. Aside from the inflated cost of the ARIIP, a significant portion of land will be used and wasted to construct the aforementioned project. The proposed design of ARIIP have an estimated canal width of 40-60 meters and have a depth of 15 meters which is not necessarily if the project is dedicated for irrigation. Like the San Roque Dam project, considerable hectares of agricultural lands and livelihood will again be consumed by a large project that may not have a substantial productivity to the lands and the farmers.

TIMMAWA still wonders and suspects that the ARIIP is also the flood-control component of San Roque Dam and the proponents are luring the farmers that the project is for irrigation. If the project, in part or as a whole, is the flood control of the dam a hesitant position of the organization and the people will be registered by the organization that extensive harm and damage might occur considering the outstanding issue raised earlier about large dams. Any irrigation project connected directly or indirectly to San Roque Dam will definitely have a detrimental effect since the danger of flooding that will flow towards the farmlands if something happens to the dam or the dam releases water

In the history of irrigation in the country, no macro-level project can be considered as a success story. Examples of large dam, like Pantabangan and Casecnan Dam in the neighboring rice-granary province of Nueva Ecija, are reputable that these cannot irrigate farmlands in the summer and drought season. Last summer season (year 2003) the large dams in Nueva Ecija did not irrigate farmlands in the province resulting in considerable loss especially to rice farmers. Large dam, like San Roque Dam, will be doubted to irrigate lands in the summer season, in which irrigation is valuable, because the water in the dam is impounded to ensure the high water level that is needed for the electric generation to function well. On the other hand, the large dam project doesn’t have a considerable need during rainy season because rain-impounded water from the field can satisfy the needs of the farmers and irrigators.

With these situations, TIMMAWA does not endorse and support a macro-level irrigation that will not have a notable positive effect on irrigating lands. The call of the farmers and irrigators in Central Luzon is to build an irrigation that will serve the genuine interest of the people and not necessarily a massive project that will need a big amount of loan from international foreign funding institution. The following are guidelines and suggestions of irrigation that will be built in Pangasinan.

a. Free Irrigation – NIA will not collect any payment, fee or taxes on any irrigation that will be created. Unlike in the past in which NIA obliged farmers to pay a portion of their harvest in exchange for irrigation. This system with NIA does not help the farmers in their livelihood and worsen their poverty.

b. No Imposed Planting Calendar from NIA – Farmers need not to comply with planting a calendar that imposes when to plant and what type of crop to plant. Imposed planting calendar resulted in great loss to farmers due to fluctuating prices of agricultural inputs and products. A continuous flow of water whenever the need to plant arises must be a factor that must be considered by the proponent.

c. Construction of Small Impounding Dam and Development of Communal Irrigation System (CIS) – In the history of farming and irrigation in the country, farmers play a vital role in the helping themselves by creating their own irrigation system through Communal Irrigation System. The creation of small impounding dams and development of CIS will be a good step in improving irrigation in a specific area.

d. Rehabilitation of existing canals and construction of small canal linings – The main reason that the existing irrigation system like ARIS, ADRIS & LARIS is not functioning well is because of sedimentation and siltation that comes from the upstream Agno River. Rehabilitation of these existing irrigation systems and the construction of small canal linings for which irrigation will flow to the fields will be effective step in improving the irrigation.

e. Other alternative sources of efficient irrigation that must be considered necessary to be studied

  • Improvements of natural spring water (bukal, tabon) that are located in various parts of the province specially near the river systems. Right now, there are farmers through the CIS, which are using these sources that are irrigating their lands for the whole year.
  • Use of water pump for irrigation. Strong water coming from pumps is proven to be an effective alternative irrigation especially in places near river systems. Water pumps can also be used to pump water from the rivers and small impounding dams towards the fields that needed water.
  • Construction of ‘free-flowing’ irrigation pipes from the streams and spring water in the mountains. This system of irrigation is now used in different parts of the country and can irrigate plains that are near the mountains.

This Position Paper is a call to NIA to consider the demands of the farmers for their irrigation needs, and on the other hand, not to continue a macro-level irrigation with no assurance that it will really improve the lives and livelihood of the farmers and the people.#

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