BAGO City Mayor Nicholas Yulo called on the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to properly manage water distribution in Negros Occidental especially with the free irrigation project of the Department of Agriculture (DA) expected to start this year.
Yulo, at the sidelights of the 9th Lights of Bago at the Manuel Y. Torres Memorial Sports Complex Monday night, said the free irrigation project is seen to greatly impact the city's rice industry.
Dubbed the rice granary of Negros Occidental, Bago comprises about 20 percent of the province’s total rice production, according to figures of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
The southern Negros city hosts both the NIA provincial and regional offices, and has the most number of farmers in the province being served by the agency.
Yulo, however, said that for the local farmers, especially the small ones, to fully benefit from the free irrigation initiative of the National Government, “there has to be proper water management.”
“Some of our farmers are having difficulty with water distribution especially during El Niño thus, we are urging NIA to improve its water management system so that all farmers will equally benefit from the services," he added.
For the free irrigation project, the government has initially allocated an additional P2.3 billion to the budget of NIA. It is intended for the salaries of NIA workers, which are previously taken from the fees of farmers for irrigation services.
Negros Occidental Second District Representative Leo Rafael Cueva, vice chairman of House committee on agriculture, had earlier said they are currently doing measures to ensure that free irrigation project will benefit the small farmers.
Target rice production
Moreover, Yulo said one of the major initiatives of the City Government this year is on agriculture.
Yulo said they are stepping up efforts to modernize the city's agriculture sector to provide more efficient services like incentives to farmers and fisherfolk.
He added that Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. has challenged him to increase their rice production target to 500 kilograms per hectare.
Currently, the city's rice production capacity is pegged at about 80 cavans per hectare, Yulo said.
“This target translates to an additional of 5,000 tons of rice in every 10,000-hectare plantation which, according to the governor, will greatly contribute in increasing the province’s rice sufficiency level,” he added.
To realize the goal, Yulo said they will also introduce more technologies and practices to farmers to improve their respective yields.