Press Release
March 13, 2010


An Aquino-Roxas administration will prioritize permanent solutions to food security and power supply problems made complicated by poor planning, corruption and disregard for the interest of ordinary people, Liberal Party vice-presidential bet Senator Mar Roxas said today.

But the government needs to start putting many of these solutions in place, including an immediate inventory of water resources in Northern and Central Luzon to protect farmlands and conditional cash transfers to farmers and their families affected by El Nino, instead of waiting for the situation to worsen and cause more damage in the coming months, Roxas said.

Roxas gave this assessment as he visited the San Roque Dam in San Nicolas, Pangasinan this morning to be briefed on the dam infrastructure and water level situation and El Nino's impact on Northern and Central Luzon's vast agricultural lands.

He also visited public markets in Dagupan City in Pangasinan and met with farmers' groups in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija, Luzon's "vegetable garden," to assess the impact of El Nino on prices and agricultural productivity.

The San Roque dam is capable of irrigating an estimated 70,800 hectares in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac, but its water level at present has reached near-critical levels, causing serious concerns to farmers in the region already feeling the brunt of El Nino on their farms.

Roxas said an Aquino-Roxas administration would wield strong political will in resolving infrastructure integration issues and policy gridlocks that, under the current administration, became more severe because of corruption and focus on partisan politics.

"We promise to address this problem as soon as we take our oaths. We will never be caught sleeping on our job," Roxas said, as farmers in Cabanatuan complained to him of a lack of irrigation in their farms despite the availability of water in nearby Pantabangan Dam.

San Roque Dam's water elevation as of March 12 was 243.56 meters above sea level, with an average inflow for this month of 19 cubic meters per second and an outflow of 55 cubic meters per second.

With an average daily power dispatch of 66 MW (50 MW during off-peak hours and 95MW during peak hours), the remaining volume of water at the San Roque Dam will hardly be enough to meet the irrigation requirements of the farmers from Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac until the harvest season in mid-May.

Reports said the reservoir is dropping at more than 0.4 meters a day, and with this rate, the minimum critical low level of 225 meters above sea level may be hit by the 5th week of April. At an elevation of 225 meters, the plant can only generate power equivalent to the daily inflow but this will not be sufficient to provide water for irrigation.

Roxas' visit of the San Roque Dam was part of his inspection of key food production sites in Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija as the El Nino weather phenomenon contributed to a constriction of water supply to farm areas and threatened power supply already made worse by the lack of new power plants.

The provinces of Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija account for the production of 1.03 million metric tons (MT) and 1.37 million MT, respectively, of palay in 2008. This accounts for 25% of rice production in Luzon, which is 9.5 million MT in 2008. Total rice hectarage of the two provinces amount to 524,454 hectares, around 75% of which are irrigated. Nationally, around 68% of rice land is irrigated.

Roxas said studies have shown that agricultural productivity in the Philippines has been alarmingly low, with growth of total factor productivity lower by 500-600% as compared to Thailand and Indonesia. This is due to insufficient, poor or wrong infrastructure (accounts for 40% of yield gap), low investment in research and development (25%), poor extension services (15%) and environmental factors (20%).

Roxas said the twin crisis - power and food security threat crisis - could only be averted through a clean and honest government - which is what he and Aquino are pushing for.

Addressing the issue of power supply shortage that has made President Arroyo declare a state of calamity in Mindanao, Roxas said he is confident a President Aquino would be more credible to local and foreign investors whose investments are needed to bankroll the immediate construction of new power plants in strategic areas in the country and offer them attractive business incentives for their investments.

"Integrity equals food on the table. Tapat, tuwid at malinis na pamamahala ang solusyon (A clean and honest government is the solution)," he stressed, adding he and presidential running-mate Aquino would sit down right away with players - big and small, private and public - in the power sector industry, to resolve the supply situation.

To boost confidence in the power sector, Roxas said a new government should offer better incentives, extend financing for research and studies on possible alternative sources of energy, such as renewable energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy and biofuel, among others. To date, only hydroelectricity is the significant alternative to fossil fuel.

While government awaits the completion of the power plants, which could take 3 to 5 years, and the development of alternative sources of power, it can, in the meantime, implement short-term solutions such as upgrading existing transmission lines to minimize gas leaks caused by outdated lines and maximize the output of energy and order energy audits to monitor usage, he said.

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