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In light of El Nino, NIA develops a backup plan for Pangasinan farmers.

An official stated on Wednesday that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Ilocos regional office has been preparing steps to assist the farmers in Pangasinan with the anticipated consequences of the El Nino phenomenon.

NIA Ilocos regional manager engineer Gaudencio de Vera stated in a virtual forum organized by the Philippine Information Agency in Pangasinan that they have been holding talks with stakeholders, including the meteorological service, the Department of Agriculture, and farmers associations, among others.

In terms of preparation, NIA keeps an eye on dams, particularly the San Roque Dam, which provides the majority of the irrigation water for the province of Pangasinan.

He claimed that ongoing information sharing is taking place to get farmers ready for this year’s dry season.

In Sta. Barbara town, where there is still water irrigation and about 7,000 hectares have been planted early, we have advised early planting if, at all possible, he said.

De Vera stated that as they get ready for the upcoming crop season in June and concentrate on maintaining and repairing irrigation canals, they have already shut down the majority of the irrigation systems in the province.

He claimed that installing irrigation pumps driven by solar energy is one of the steps they are putting in place.

More solar-powered irrigation systems are planned for installation in San Carlos City and the towns of Malasiqui, Binalonan, and Pozorrubio, according to De Vera. “There were already two in Sta. Barbara town and one in Lingayen town to address the impact of El Nino,” she said.

While those in Mangatarem, Aguilar, and Binalonan are out for bid, Sta. Barbara and Lingayen’s town projects are still in the works.

“We envision that every town will have the solar project as we have seen its performance, that is, that it is reliable to supply water to farmlands,” he stated.

De Vera stated that 500 water pumps will also be distributed as a precaution in regions believed to have been severely impacted by El Nino.

“Through their group, the farmers will receive water pumps that we plan to buy. In particular, individuals in downstream who will undoubtedly run out of water, thus they are the focus in this project, I have asked our field personnel to identify locations that would be most likely affected,” he said.

For its projects in Pangasinan, the NIA has allocated PHP300 million this year.

The initiatives, which would benefit farmers in Alaminos City, Bani, and Sual towns, are in Mabini town and would cover about 7,000 hectares.

“The Dumulog project, which may irrigate about 1,600 acres, is proceeding for this year. About 40% of the PHP1.6 billion project has already been completed, he said.

Construction will soon begin on an irrigation project in the town of Aguilar, which has already received finance.

Both the project at Mangatarem, which would cover around 8,000 hectares and the Bayambang pump irrigation system are being researched.

Pangasinan has a total area of 180,000 hectares, of which 65 percent, or roughly 80,000 hectares, remain unirrigated.

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