OPABA chides Canaman officials on NIA project

NAGA CITY -- “Only a court order can suspend or stop the implementation of a national government funded project,” presidential adviser for Bicol affairs Usec. Marvel Clavecilla said as he admonished Canaman Mayor Nelson Legaspi, barangay Baras chairperson Nancy Abiada and Canaman municipal police station to stop meddling in the repair of an irrigation structure, which is intended to irrigate 75 hectares of rice farms and mitigate flooding in the town.

Clavecilla issued the warning as a result of the request of NIA Bicol acting regional manager Freddie M. Toquero’s request for the presidential adviser’s help in the resumption of repair works of a checkgate structure, which was ordered stopped by the Abiada in October 24, 2019.

NIA sought the assistance of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Bicol Affairs (OPABA) in December last year after Abiada arbitrarily caused the suspension of the on-going repair works of the irrigation project located in the boundary of barangays San Agustin and Baras in Canaman town.

The Baras barangay council issued Resolution No. 032, series 2019 on Octo. 19, 2019 recommending to Legaspi the stop the construction of the NIA project. On Dec. 16, 2019, the Sangguniang Bayan of Canaman also issued Resolution No. 2019-112 recommending to the town mayor to suspend the construction of the checkgate project. Both resolutions claimed that NIA implemented the project without prior consultation.

During the meeting presided by Clavecilla on Jan. 6, which was attended by the officials of NIA, the Canaman local government unit (LGU) and the irrigators association, Engr. Nestor Cortes, acting manager of NIA Camaries Sur Irrigation Management Office (CSIMO) said that the LGU was duly informed and that prior consultation is no longer required as the project is not a new one but just intended to rehabilitate and improve the existing structure constructed more than 15 years ago.

The checkgate structure located in a creek along the San Felipe-Calauag (Naga City) -San Agustin, Canaman boundary was identified by the Naga City government as one of the cause of the massive flooding in December 2017 in the residential areas in barangays San Felipe and Calauag, Naga City.

Then Naga City Vice Mayor Nelson Legacion and Council Vidal Castillo requested NIA to widen the structure to allow the free flow of water during heavy rains.

NIA prepared a new design for the structure to improve it by expanding its width and putting up three steel gates with mechanical lifting mechanism. NIA central office approved the project and allocated P15 million under the 2019 program.

Work in the project started in October last year, when barely a week after it began, it was stopped twice by Abiada. The first was in Oct. 24 and a few days after where unidentified LGU personnel and policemen from the Canaman MPS ordered workers to cease on-going works in the area.

In a succeeding meeting held in Clavecilla’s office on Jan. 14, Toquero informed the presidential adviser that NIA will soon resume repair works on the project and will not stop if the Canaman LGU or any party cannot present a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by a court.

He said that further delay in the completion of the project, originally scheduled by March 2020, will prejudice the welfare of some 80 farmers tilling 75 hectares of rice lands in barangay San Agustin, Canaman town.

The 80 farmer beneficiaries of the project stand to lose over P5 million in palay production losses in one cropping season if the project is not finished as scheduled.