Cabanatuan City, July 19, 2003 By Manny Galvez (STAR) A proposed hydro-electric dam in Nueva Ecija could be the solution to the perennial problem of lack of potable water for Metro Manila residents.

The P5-billion Balintingon River Multi-purpose Project (BRMP) could provide the irrigation needs of northern Bulacan and in turn enable the Angat Dam to supplement the water of the La Mesa Dam which is the primary source of drinking water in the metropolis.

Undersecretary Renato Diaz, the presidential assistant for North Luzon, said that Metro Manila is suffering from a water crisis because it is sourced mainly from the La Mesa Dam.

He said that water from the Angat Dam may be tapped to augment La Mesa Dam’s water but this is being used to service 30,000 hectares of agricultural lands in northern Bulacan.

Diaz said that his office, which is under the Office of the President, is now looking for a BOT (build-operate-transfer) proponent that would bankroll the construction of the BRMP in the tri-boundaries of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Pampanga.

Balintingon Dam apart from the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP) can provide irrigation for Bulacan, relieve Angat Dam of the burden of irrigating the province and at the same time channel its water instead to the La Mesa Dam.

Engr. Reynaldo Puno, chief of the NIA-UPRIIS District 4 based in Gapan City said that the BRMP was first conceived under the Irrigation Development Plan for Central Luzon (IDPCL), a reconnaisance study conducted by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and ECI Consultants in 1976.

Under the plan, a 140-meter high rockfill central core dam with a catchment area of 228 square meters is to be built at the proposed project location in Gapan City, 90 kilometers north of Manila, traversed by the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway. Its reservoir will have a storage capacity of up to 572 million cubic meters of water.

Aside from the dam, to be built, too, are a powerhouse equipped with two 22-megawatt Frances turbines, a 710-meter long concrete tunnel discharging 1,430 cubic meters of water per second, and a 140-meter long diversion wire.

Engr. Rogelio Macatula, chief of NIA-UPRIIS District 4 engineering division, said that the project also involves construction of 109 kilometers of main canals, 168 kilometers of lateral and sub-lateral canals, farm ditchers, 210 kilometers of drainage channels and access roads to serve 16,200 hectares of additional lands.

A feasibility study conducted by NIA, the Electroconsult of Italy and the Italian government showed that the project can irrigate 18,800 hectares in the three provinces using the Sumacbao River, one of the two main branches of the Peñaranda River, a tributary of the Pampanga River opening in the Manila Bay.

Apart from the 18,800 hectares, it has a potential service area of 63,000 hectares. Among its service areas are the towns of Cabiao, Gen. Tinio, Peñaranda, San Isidro and Sta. Rosa and the cities of Cabanatuan and Gapan in Nueva Ecija; San Miguel, San Ildefonso and San Rafael in Bulacan and Arayat in Pampanga.

The study showed that the project would generate massive employment opportunities, encourage planting of diversified crops and fishery projects and with an economic internal rate of return (IRR) of 15.8 percent.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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