Sun finally breaks through two weeks of drenching rains
THE SOUTHERN BEAT  - Rolly Espina () - September 25, 2007 - 12:00am

The sun finally broke through the dark clouds that covered the Western Visayas for almost two weeks. Actually it started Sunday with several hours of the sun’s rays piercing the clouds. But there were still torrential downpours that prompted many to sigh that they were still in for drenching.

But yesterday, the sun finally took over the atmosphere. And in many places in the region, residents started to sweep mud from their covered home. And, in some places, count the number of fatalities and damage that the floods had caused.

Surprisingly, Typhoon Goring never even just brushed the region. It was just the southeast monsoon that poured tons of water on the region and caused landslides and floods. In low areas, such as in Bacolod, the high tide dammed up the flood and caused river and streams to overflow their banks. This result was  inundations of low areas.

The final toll still has to be counted. But the palay areas of Negros Occidental’s rice granary of Bago City, San Enrique, Valladolid and Pulu­pandan reported that rice crop damage had already exceeded the P19-million level.

Worse, harvestable crops were still under water. And the damage could rise higher.

I still have to hear from Iloilo, Antique, and the rice areas of Capiz and Aklan. Presumably the damage may rise higher.

Ethanol project rumors

But despite the broadcast reports of flooding and damage in Iloilo City, I managed to received a report from Francis Trenas, president of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Planters hailing the reports that John Gokongwei and Company may convert one of the two sugar mills of Passi City which they recently bought for hundreds of millions of ethanol production.

“If the reports turn out to be true, Panay-Fed members hail it as a major breakthrough in ethanol production,” said Trenas, younger brother of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas.

Francis is the taciturn type. He rarely opens his mouth on issues. But this is one instance when he enthused over a rumored project and its implications.

“Local sugar farmers are willing to assign a portion of their sugarcane crops for the ethanol project should it push through,” said Trenas.

No word has been received about that plan from Timoteo Consing, the chair of the former firm that owned the two Passi sugar mills which sold out to Gokongwei. Neither from the new owner or owners.

But for the Negros Occidental’s sugar millers, and also the planters, that could signal a scramble to go into ethanol production with the sugar mills using distilleries as adjuncts to the mills.

First Farmers Milling Co. president Jose Villanueva had earlier confirmed to this writer that he is now undertaking an experiment on a project in Talisay City that will find out if cost of production can go down to as low as 25 centavos per liter.

Rosendo Lopez, First Farmers Association president, also confirmed that the sugar farmers are aware of the project of Villanueva and are all rooting for it.

But the two-week rains may not have damaged sugarcane crops as they did rice plantations, still there may be a need for the Sugar Regulatory Administration to assess the drop in production of sugar. Water-logged canes suffer from PSTC loss. And this was evident with the temporary slowdown of cane deliveries during the past  week.

All in all, the region will still have to take stock of the situation post the two-week torrential downpour.

Breakthrough in Malaga impasse

Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangan­daman will come to Negros Occidental this week to witness the signing of the memorandum of agreement between two groups of farmers of the Hacienda Velez-Malaga in La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

He said he was praying for the contending parties to agree to the signing soon of a peaceful and long lasting solution to the problem of Velez-Malagan, Pangandaman said.

A special committee which included Sugar Regulatory Administrator Coscolluela, Bob Cuenca, and Bishop Buzon of Kabankalan plus Fr. Rolex Nueva reportedly drew up and presided the crafting of the MOA with the Malaga-Cuenca Multipurpose Cooperative members and the Task Force Mapalad.

The agreement allows the TFM members to gain possession of 53 hectares of Lot 852 where they had previously been installed by Pangandaman, including the standing crop, Coscolluela said.

The coop members will also get the rest of the lot of 43.71 hectares where the hacienda proper is located. The rest of Lot 851 will go to the co-members, including 32.46 hectares in Moises Padilla town that had not previously been covered by CLOAS for cooperative members.

Well, hopefully the MOA will satisfy both sides in the long-time contentious issue. And finally bring peace to the La Castellana countryside.

Addendum. The Diocese of Bacolod yesterday called on the consumers of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative to be vigilant on the issues generated by the power sales contract between Ceneco and the KEPCO-Salcon power Corp. Fr. Aniceto Buenafe, director of the Social Action Center, said Bishop Vicente Navarra told Ceneco Board president Roberto Montelibano during a meeting Friday that any decision by the board should pass through a hearing among its consumers. That included a suggestion for a thorough study on alternative sources of energy for Ceneco.

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