TABUK CITY, Kalinga – Two groups frustrated by lack of what they deem as satisfactory executive action on the calamity brought about by the implementation of the P425M World Bank-funded irrigation rehabilitation project on the Upper Chico Irrigation System (UCRIS) in this city are seeking legislative probe into the fiasco.
The Upper Chico River Irrigation System Tabuk and Pinukpuk Federation of Irrigators’ Association (UCRISTPFIA) have asked AGRI Partylist Representative Delphine Gan Lee to take the cudgels for them on their loss of livelihood due to the “dereliction of duty” of National Irrigation Administration Administrator Florencio Padernal.
They accused Padernal of failing to “act on the valid recommendations of the Kalinga-Irrigation Management Office and the Irrigators Associations and the gross negligence of the contractor of the rehabilitation of the UCRIS, Markbilt Construction/RD Policarpio and Co. Inc. for his refusal to deploy his equipment and manpower to the project site despite the availability thereof resulting to the wash-out of the NIA main canal, non-completion and defect of all items of work of the project.”
The farmer leaders related to Lee they have repeatedly warned Padernal of the irresponsibility and incompetence of the contractor as reflected in his runaway slippage and that Padernal had in turn promised three times to have the contract of Markbilt Construction/RD Policarpio and Co. Inc. rescinded but reneged on his word each time.
The UCCISTPFIA had called the disaster man-made in the letter to Lee.
On the other hand, the influential local clergy group Kalinga-Apayao Religious Sector Association (KARSA) has sent a resolution to all members of the Senate seeking a probe of what it calls mismanagement of the World Bank-funded irrigation rehabilitation projects.
The KARSA put the losses from the disaster in terms of unrealized rice production and lost labor employment to P800M in Kalinga alone.
Around half of 11,300 hectare service area of the UCRIS is found in Mallig and Quezon towns in Isabela.
In Resolution No. 11, series of 2015, the KARSA also cited that the NIA is spending P100M for the restoration of the washed out portion of the canal which they blamed “on failure of the contractor to install the intake gates more than a year after the schedule it set by itself.”
The water gates are yet to be installed as of this writing.
The temporary crippling of the UCRIS brought about by the wash out during typhoon Ineng on August 21 has resulted to the failure of the facility to deliver irrigation water until the end of the year thereby the loss of the year’s second cropping.
The KARSA expressed concern at the “apparent untouchability of Markbilt Construction/RD Policarpio and Co. Inc. having been allowed by NIA leadership to pile up a slippage of 57 percent at the time of the disaster on August 21,2015 which has worsened to 63.65 percent as of October 27,2015 when, under the law, a slippage of 15 percent is enough reason to terminate a contract.”
The group pointed out that Padernal has made things worse by extending the contract of the contractor by 91 days “despite the statements of local NIA officials “that if the contractor wants it, it could finish the project within the original timeframe.”
They told the Senate that apart from the UCRIS, there are seven other slippage-plagued irrigations projects under the Participatory Irrigation Development Project of the World Bank and the NIA saying that the slippage of one has allegedly breached 70 percent.
“It is worth noting that Markbilt Construction, one of the partners in the UCRIS project, is also involved in three of the seven other delayed PIDP projects,” the resolution said in one part.
The KARSA commented that they have asked Malacanang and local officials to act on the problem as early as July 2015 but that the first has yet to act while the action taken by the later “is not to the best interest of the farmers.”
The KARSA is apparently referring to decision of the general assembly held by the provincial government disapproving the resolution of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan which supported moves for the rescission of the contract of the Markbilt Construction/RD Policarpio and Co. Inc. and instead allowed the contractor to continue the job until the end of the contract on December 21,2013.
On the other hand, the UCRISTPFIA told Lee: “We have brought our plight to both legislative and executive bodies in our province but it seems the persons responsible for our plight have clout larger than we had ever thought of and somehow our voices were seemingly uninteresting to our supposed protectors.”
By Dexter A. See