Mayor Isko promises to prioritize completion of dam as PHL president


Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso assured Tarlac farmers that if elected president next year, he would look deeper into the issues surrounding the decades-long delays in the construction of the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Project (BBMP).

Moreno made the assurance last Thursday during a town hall meeting with farmers, farmer leaders and fisherfolk in Barangay Banaba, Tarlac City.

Gaano na katagal pinangako yung Balog-Balog? May pinapangako ang mga politiko noong araw, noong unang panahon. Bilog-bilog ang nakuha niyo. [How long has Balog-Balog been promised? Politicians made promises of yesteryears; long ago. You were given the runaround.],” Moreno said.

The actual construction of the Balog-Balog irrigation canal and a dam began in 1988 during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino.

In 1992, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) proposed to implement the Balog-Balog project in two phases that, once completed, will provide year-round irrigation to 34,410 hectares of farmlands in 10 municipalities in Tarlac province.

It is estimated that more than 23,000 farmers and their families in the towns of Capas, Concepcion, La Paz, Paniqui, Pura, Victoria, Ramos, Gerona, San Jose and Tarlac City are projected to see improvement in crop production.

Phase 1 covers an area of 12,475 hectares and mainly consisted of the construction of a diversion dam, a conveyance canal, and a siphon underneath the Tarlac River to connect the conveyance canal to the Tarlac River irrigation system main canal.

The BBMP Phase 2 was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority in May 2015, entailing the construction of new irrigation service for 21,935 hectares and stabilization of water supply to the currently irrigated areas of 12,475 hectares developed under BBMP Phase 1.

Part of Phase 2 is the construction of the P5.863-billion Balog-Balog storage dam that was started on June 21, 2017, with an original target completion by June 2020.

The NIA revised it to January 2021, and later further revised to June 2021. The project was further delayed anew when NIA blacklisted the contractor of the project last February for its “failure to fully and faithfully comply with contractual obligations.”

Still, only 30 percent of the project was reportedly completed by end of 2020.

 “Ayaw ko kayong pangakuan kasi mukhang nadala na kayo sa Balog-Balog. [I don’t want to promise you anymore because it looks like you’ve been frustrated with the Balog-Balog.] I will look into it so that we can empower 34,000 hectares of land in Tarlac to be irrigated by that dam. We’ll cross the bridge when we get there,” Moreno said.

The Aksyon Demokratiko standard-bearer also insinuated that he is willing to put more money in the project since it would be more beneficial than spending P8 billion for “overpriced” face masks, personal protective equipment (PPE) sets and Covid-19 test kits.

Akalain mo, face shield P8 billion. E kung dam na lang ang itinayo, di may tubig na kayo. [Wrap your head around this: face shields cost P8 billion. If only a dam was built, you could have gotten water.],” he said.

“If we believe that food security is the number one threat to national security, then ang government hindi dapat maging kwidaw; dapat walang agam-agam na gumastos para masigurado na may makakain ang bawat Pilipino. And the only way to do that is to continue to listen on the situation nung mga nagpo-produce ng pagkain,” Moreno said. [The government should not be cautious; there should be no hesitation in spending to ensure that every Filipino has something to eat. And the only way to do that is to continue to listen on the situation of those who produce food.]

Image courtesy of CNN

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