Costly, Incomplete Irrigation Projects Being Paid for by Gov’t, Farmers at Losing End

Missing dam

Meanwhile, the P199.4-million Talibon Small Reservoir Project (TSRP) in Talibon, Bohol was supposed to irrigate 1,000 hectares of land.

Africa said the project was conceived in 1987 and the provincial irrigation office at that time reportedly found it to be not viable. In any case, surveying and pre-engineering work started and bids were solicited in 1995. A private contractor, which submitted the lowest bid lost, allegedly upon the lobbying of a lawmaker. By 1998, the Bohol Provincial Irrigation Office requested authority to undertake the project.

Construction was supposed to finish in 1999 but until now, it remains incomplete. An investigation in 1995 by a local anti-corruption alliance found that although P119.1 million ($4,639,837 at the 1995 average exchange rate of $1=P25.669) had already been spent, there was still no sign of any reservoir, dam or irrigation.

Unresolved

Africa revealed that the controversies surrounding the two projects remain unresolved.

In 2002, the Senate had more than a dozen hearings regarding the CMIPP.

“Unfortunately, after all the hearings, the final report was never completed…Close connections to the president at that time were allegedly abused to keep the project. At the end of the day, there was no conclusion,” said Africa.

The CMIPP and the Senate inquiries regarding it were conducted during the term of President Fidel Ramos. Despite the anomalies, Africa said the project was pushed through on the strength of, among others, memorandums from Ramos in May 1993, which sought investors for the projects and in November 1994 to fast-track the approval process.

In 2006, the Senate also initiated an investigation into the TSRP. But like the CMIPP, there was no conclusion. A case against local NIA officials was filed before the local office of the Ombudsman in 2004 but remains stalled to date.

Renaud Meyer, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country director, who attended the launching of the GCR 2008 expressed disbelief that Senate inquiries went to naught.

Farmers at the losing end

Africa said farmers are at the losing end.

He said that small farmers in Talibon, Bohol lost in three ways: the labor they contributed to the construction valued at P1.2 million ($46,748); the land they ‘voluntarily donated’ and the crops foregone to make way for the project’s canals and roads and for which they were never compensated; lastly, they still have no irrigation to speak of.

Africa further said, “Many small farmers in Nueva Ecija are hoping that water will finally pass through the canals into their rice fields. Few, if any, are aware that they would be using the most expensive water in the country that is being paid for by the national government at the expense of other irrigation projects, which might have been developed for millions of irrigation-less small farmers elsewhere.”

Africa said agriculture is important to the Philippine economy. The state of local agriculture, however, remains backward. The lack of irrigation aggravates the situation. Only 30 percent of the total agricultural land is irrigated.

He reaffirmed the fundamental characteristics of corruption presented by Priya Shah of the Water Integrity Network (WIN) – public officials have wide discretion and little accountability, weak enforcement mechanisms, and the benefits being greater than the risks of getting caught. “Quite clearly, our struggle against corruption is also a struggle for good government and a struggle for more meaningful political change.” (Bulatlat)

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