Farmers ask gov’t to bare El Niño action plan to address irrigation water shortage

By Nuel M. Bacarra

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) called on the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government’s El Niño Task Force to lay down concrete plans to address irrigation problems farmers are starting to face since the weather phenomenon started.

According to the farmers’ group, many provinces in Luzon are likely to experience dry spells, Mindanao will experience dry conditions, while Camarines Norte and Southern Leyte provinces will be vulnerable to drought.

“We have been warned. El Niño is here and we must prepare for more extreme heat in the coming months. An El Niño episode typically lasts for 9 to 12 months,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement.

“We want to know NIA’s concrete plans on how to help farmers cope with El Niño and how to ensure the availability of rice and food crops despite extreme weather events,” Ramos said.

KMP proposed to NIA to immediately implement plans for effective use and management of water resources, restoration of irrigation systems and construction of climate-resilient irrigation systems and facilities.

“Kayang mapababa ng mula 20 hanggang 30 porsyento ang paggamit ng tubig sa mga sakahan ng palay basta epektibo at mahusay ang pag-manage ng NIA ng tubig. Hindi kailangang alisan o bawasan ng tubig para sa irigasyon ng mga magsasaka natin sa Pampanga at Bulacan,” KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano said.

(Water consumption for farmlands can be reduced by 20% to 30% if NIA will effectively and properly manage water supply. Water requirements for irrigation for Pampanga and Bulacan’s farmers should not be not be stopped nor reduced).

KMP asked the government to bare complete details and information of its plans to solve the irrigation water shortage because of El Niño. It will seek an urgent dialogue with DA and NIA officials to discuss mitigation efforts.

The National Water Resources Board has started reduction of water supply for irrigation and domestic use purposes from Norzagaray, Bulacan’s Angat Dam since last month.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Hydromet Division reported the water level at Angat Dam has already dropped below its normal operating level of 180 meters to 179.23 meters.

Angat Dam irrigates around 85,000 hectares of farmlands in Central Luzon and is the main supplier of water to Metro Manila.

Domestic use over irrigation

Meanwhile, an official of the National economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has assured the Filipino people that President Marcos is already taking measures to lessen the possible negative impacts of El Niño in the country.

NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said that the worst effects of El Niño will be felt early next year.

Edillon also cited that irrigation water should be reduced in favor of residential use to help ease the effects of the phenomenon among Metro Manila residents.

The official said the rice planting season is over anyway.

PAGASA has officially declared on July 4 the start of El Niño in the country and has also predicted an 80% probability that the country will be under the weather phenomenon until the first quarter of 2024.

The country will possibly experience below normal rainfall conditions and temperature spikes, PAGASA said. #

Four reasons why the Kaliwa Dam Project loan is onerous

by IBON Media & Communications

The loan agreement for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Low Dam Project (NCWS-Kaliwa Low Dam) is onerous and should be cancelled. President Duterte has reportedly ordered a review of loan agreements to determine if any are onerous and disadvantageous to the Filipino people. Yet the Kaliwa Dam project which has come under fire for its unfavorable Chinese loan agreement has already started.

The Php10.2 billion (US$211.2 million) loan agreement financing most of the Php12.2 billion NCWS-Kaliwa Low Dam has the following questionable provisions:

1. Costly to pay. The commercial loan agreement has a 2% annual interest rate, commitment fee of 0.3% annually, management fee of US$633,600, and a 20-year maturity with a 7-year grace period. The nominal interest rate is higher than other recent loan agreements with Japan or Korea which range from 0.08-0.26 percent. The loan is also not necessarily the cheapest loan even if US dollar equivalent interest rates are used.

2. Project is exclusive to Chinese contractors. While a Philippine project,only Chinese contractors are qualified to bid and Philippine corporations were excluded from the process. The China Energy Engineering Company, Inc. (CEEC) bagged the project. The contract is between the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) and Chinese corporations.

3. Loan agreement is biased for Chinese laws. Article 8.4 of the loan agreement stipulates that Chinese Law will govern disputes pertaining to the agreement. Meanwhile, Article 8.5 says that disputes will be dealt with under the auspices of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Court.

4. Philippine patrimonial assets and property may be compromised in case of default on the loan. In the Article 8.1 Waiver of Immunity, the country “waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereignty or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding”.

The loan agreement is financially disadvantageous, tied to Chinese contractors, and an affront to Philippine sovereignty. These issues are also on top of other issues raised by the Dumagats and Remontados, farmers and community folk, environmentalists, engineers, hydrologists, scientists, public servants, consumers, and many more. The dams projects will displace communities, inundate ancestral lands, and destroy the environment.

The Philippine government should not enter into loan agreements having such terms whether with China or any other sources of official development assistance (ODA). The Filipino people bear the burden of paying these onerous loans. This is even getting worse under the Duterte administration which is imposing new and higher consumption taxes while lowering taxes on the rich and on corporations. #