Irrigation breach feared to destroy 1,000 hectares of rice farms in SouthCot

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 December)–Around 1,000 hectares of irrigated palay farms in three municipalities of South Cotabato province are at risk of drying up within in the next few weeks due to the sudden closure last week of a damaged irrigation facility in the area.

Orlando Tibang, officer-in-charge of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces, said Friday they were forced to totally shut down portions of the Banga River Irrigation System last December 3 following a major breach in one of its main irrigation canals.

He said the damaged structure is part of the irrigation line that serves some 1,337 hectares of palay farms in the towns of Banga, Norala and Sto. Nino.

The official said they immediately implemented temporary remedial measures by placing sandbag filling on portions of the damaged concrete canals that so far allowed them to restore the flow of irrigation water in around 300 hectares of farmlands.

“Around 1,000 hectares of standing palay that are in various growth stages remain without irrigation supplies since last week and it might take about a month and a half before we could restore our services in these areas,” he said in a radio interview.

Tibang said the remedial repairs are ongoing and they have prepared an additional 1,000 sandbag filling to restore portions of the breached canals.

But he pointed that such measure is temporary in nature and the damaged concrete structures should be replaced or repaired properly to prevent more breaches in the future.

He said his office is currently preparing the work program for the repair and rehabilitation of the damaged canals.

“We’re hoping that it will be funded immediately by the central office so we can also start the repairs early,” Tibang said.

The official said he has sent letters to the affected local government units and concerned government agencies seeking their assistance for the sourcing of funds for the required repairs.

He also requested for the deployment of some heavy equipment in the affected portions of the facility to assist the ongoing remedial repairs.

Meantime, Francisco Domingo, acting head of the South Cotabato Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, said he has been coordinating with the Department of Agriculture in Region 12 for the provision of some assistance to the affected farmers.

He said they are also looking at some alternatives to help save the 1,000 hectares of palay farmlands that could be destroyed later on due to the lack of water supplies.

“Based on our estimates, the potential damage might reach around 2,600 metric tons of palay and that could affect the availability of local rice supplies later on,” he added. (MindaNews)