Pampanga farmers fear impact of Bulacan bulk water project
- Dino Balabo () - February 18, 2008 - 12:00am

MALOLOS CITY – Farmers from southern Pampanga towns are apprehensive of the impending implementation of the P11.5-billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project (Bulacan Bulk) that will draw water from Angat Dam by 2010, saying their livelihood will be at stake.

Guillermo Mangaluz, chairman of the Working Station 9 of the Angat Maasim River Irrigation System (AMRIS) that irrigates farmlands in the towns of Candaba, San Simon and San Luis, said that water allocation from the Angat Dam is not enough for local farmers’ irrigation needs.

“Ngayon pa lang ay kinakapos na kami, paano kapag natuloy yung Bulacan Bulk, mas malaking problema yan sa amin (Just now, we don’t have enough water supply, what more when the Bulacan Bulk project starts. It will even be a bigger problem to us),” said Mangaluz told The STAR in a telephone interview.

Mangaluz, who was also elected chairman of Barangay Barit in Candaba last October, said once the Bulacan Bulk becomes operational, it will make ricelands unproductive, endangering the livelihood of thousands of families.

At present, some 2,000 hectares in the three southern Pampanga towns are dependent on water allocation from Angat Dam that flows through the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) lateral canals from San Rafael to Baliuag towns in northern Bulacan.

Mangaluz said local farmers harvest at least 90 to 100 bags of rice per hectare each cropping season.

“Isang beses isang taon lang kami kung umani dahil hindi sapat ang tubig at hindi rin kami makakuha ng tubig mula sa Candaba Swamp dahil mas mataas ang elevation ng area namin (We only harvest once a year because water is not sufficient. We can’t get water from the Candaba Swamp because our area has high elevation),” he said.

The same was echoed by Domingo Reyes, 68, chairman of AMRIS Working Station 9 that irrigates some 3,000 hectares of ricefields in Barangays Tabuyoc, Balucoc, Pansinala and Inaon in Apalit, Pampanga.

Reyes said he hopes that Bulacan officials will reconsider their decision to implement the project, as it will not only affect some 28,000 hectares of farmlands in Bulacan, but in southern Pampanga as well.

The Bulacan Bulk project is envisioned to address the critical ground water supply in Bulacan and will draw water from the giant Angat Dam. It will supply water to local districts and some one million Bulacan households.

Based on documents obtained by The STAR, some 230 million liters per day (MLD) of raw water will be drawn from the Angat Dam and will be treated before distribution to local water districts.

Established in the 1960s, the Angat Dam supplies 97 percent of the potable water requirements of Metro Manila.

To address the perennial water problem between farmers and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) concessionaires, Jun Herrera of the Advanced Technology Resource Corp. (ATRC) proposed the irrigation bulk project that will draw water from the Calumpit River.

Herrera said the project could supply 20 cubic meters per second (cms) of water from the Calumpit River to farmers as replacement for the water allocation that they get from Angat Dam.

He said they would build a pipeline from Calumpit to Baliuag town. But local farmers said it would be impossible, as they would oppose the laying of pipelines across their farmlands.

Jess Perez, of the NIA provincial office in San Rafael, Bulacan, said Herrera’s proposal to pump 20 cms of water from the Calumpit River would leave some 2,000 hectares of farmlands in Bulacan waterless, especially those at the end of the NIA’s lateral canals.

Perez said these farmlands are located in Malolos City and the towns of Bocaue, Balagtas, Bulakan, Paombong, Hagonoy, and Pulilan.

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