In Ligao City, too much water means more income

Water pressure is so strong that two 3-way public faucets are open 24/7, overflowing with water.

Water pressure is so strong that two 3-way public faucets are open 24/7, overflowing with water.

(Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer issue of 27 July 2008)

Ligao City, Albay – Barangay Paulba in this city has the enviable problem of having too much water bursting out of its faucets.  The pressure of its new P6 million rural water system is so strong that they have two three-way public faucets open 24/7, just overflowing with water.  Residents don’t mind letting the water go to waste so long as they are able to ease the pressure on their pipes or they would burst otherwise. 

Barangay Paulba shares the potable water system with Barangay Allang, from where Capongolan Spring serves as their source for both barangays’ potable water system funded by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) $75 million Infrastructure for Rural Productivity Enhancement Sector or INFRES project.  It benefits 700 poor households and is being managed by the Barangay Water System Association. 


INFRES benefits local government units in Bicol, Eastern Visayas, and Mindanao where over 70 percent of all poor Filipinos live.  Instead of the national government imposing the project on them, LGUs are empowered to identify and develop projects based on their own design and implementation process.  Half of the project funds are provided by ADB while the national and local governments shoulder the other half, in cash or in kind. 


The project has the long-term developmental goal of increasing rural income favoring poor areas with high agricultural potential by providing roads, communal irrigation systems, and drinking water on the premise that a major cause of poverty is largely due to inadequate rural infrastructure.  With irrigation improvements alone, annual income from crop production can increase by at least 80 percent.  Some 700,000 people from farm and non-farm households are the beneficiaries.


Typhoon-prone Ligao City is classified as a fourth class city and 80 percent of its economy is agriculture-based.  There was an urgent need to increase agricultural productivity to get it back to its feet after the destruction caused by typhoons Milenyo and Reming in late 2006.   Previously, barangay Allang did not have a water supply system even if it had its own Capongolan Spring as water source.  In Paulba, only half of the community had water connection.   Now, with the project fully in place, there is so much water that they have to let it gush out of their public faucets 24/7 because of the strong pressure, which means it can easily be diverted to benefit 2 or 3 more barangays.


Ligao City has a total INFRES project cost amounting to P187 million, consisting of 56 kilometers of newly-opened and rehabilitated farm-to-market roads in upland and farflung areas, a P48 million irrigation system running up to almost 35 kilometers for 1,145 hectares of farm land, and the P6 million rural water supply system.  The two irrigation subprojects are two-thirds complete while the five farm-to-market roads are over 30% complete.  The city is way ahead of its peers, considering that most INFRES projects in the other coverage areas are still in the bidding or pre-implementation stages. 


The success of INFRES in Ligao City is attributed to the passion and hands-on management style of its lady chief executive, Mayor Linda P. Gonzales, once just a supportive First Lady to her husband, Fernando, when he was Albay Governor from 2002 to 2007.  So when her husband was no longer in power, it was her turn to step into the political arena. 


“When I saw the program, right away I told my planning officer hindi puedeng hindi natin ito pasukan (we can’t not enter this project),” Mayor Gonzales said.  “Ang masarap na nangyari sa INFRES is the empowerment, from the executive, hanggang lahat ng mga staff ko, hanggang sa mga barangay officials because sige ang consultation namin sa kanila.  (The nice thing about INFRES is the empowerment it provides, to the executive, to my staff, to the barangay officials because consultations are there and continuing),” the Mayora said.  She herself led participants who attended the capacity building workshops and trainings. 


And because the city fulfilled all the requirements and submitted the necessary documentation, it immediately got the go-signal and funding for not just one but all three subprojects, the most number in any single INFRES area and in record time.  


“All the barangay captains involved in the INFRES projects that we have, lahat sila ay napakacooperative at (all of them are so cooperative and) enthusiastic not only to have the project but to learn how to become empowered. So it’s a very wholistic program.”    She also acknowledges “the combined efforts” of her city council and the “team effort”  of her staff for the project’s success, which is embedded in the project’s billboard where the battlecry “good things happen here” is also written. 


“Iyong nasasayang na tubig, puedeng gamitin sa drip irrigation, horticulture, organic farming, etc.  Hindi natin nakita sa papel iyon kung sa dokumento lang natin titingnan.  (The water coming out of the public faucet can be used for drip irrigation, horticulture, organic farming, etc. We would not have been able to see that, if we just looked at the project documents.),” says Dennis Arraullo, Asst. Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which is the executing agency of the project.  


“We are glad in the ADB that we were able to respond to the community’s needs and that it has made an impact on their daily lives.  Buut more than that, we would also like to know how it can also benefit others,” says Executive Director Marita Magpili-Jimenez who represents the Philippines, among other countries, in the ADB Board of Directors.  She encouraged the barangay and the water association to share their water resource to nearby communities for additional income. “We need the beneficiaries to be taking the opportunity to better themselves,” she added.


“Tiwala ako na ang inyong water system ay pangangalagaan ninyo at iyong lahat ng pinag-usapan natin, kung paano maging progressive ang Paulba, sa pamamagitan ng pagkakaroon ng inyong water system, lalung-lalo na mag-gegenerate kayo ng income dito, ay tuloy-tuloy na iyan (I am confident that you will take care of your water system and all those things that we discussed about how to make barangay Paulba progressive by generating income through this water system, will be achieved and sustained).” Mayor Gonzales said.  She also cited the good teamwork of Paulba’s barangay council, led by chairwoman Shirley Buban, who shares the same passion and hands-on approach to the project as her Mayora.


In the Board, we read a lot of papers, policies, and we approve projects but we don’t have a good sense of  how these projects are being implemented on the ground.  And I am really glad we came and saw how this ADB project is implemented.  We are very happy to see there is strong community ownership and participation,” says Aw Siew-Juan, ADB Alternative Executive Director.  


 “It is definitely a success story so far as the achievement of objectives is concerned,”  M. Jamilur Rahman, ADB Principal Project Management Specialist says. “However, I am concerned to see that the water pressure exceeds the system design limit and all faucets are kept open all the time to avoid damage to the pipes. Some damages will still take place over time even if all faucets are open. Apart from the wastage, excess water will cause drainage problems in the locality increasing the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The problem could have been avoided with some simple adjustments at the intake point, and the engineers should attend to it before it is too late.” 


Director Jose Dayao of the DA Region 5 said the development of infrastructure will encourage farmers to plant and would reduce their transportation costs.  “Ito ay pinaghirapan, unang-una ng local government.  Of course, nagawa ito dahil din sa barangay. Dahil kung wala ang kooperasyon ng barangay, hindi tayo makakapag-implement (This was achieved through the hard work of the local government. Of course, this was also achieved with the barangay.  If there was no cooperation from the barangay, we would not have been able to implement the project),” he said.  


The devastation wrought on her city by recent major typhoons is still fresh in the Lady Mayor’s memory.  Yet, she remains undaunted even with the onset of another rainy season as she focuses on the present, what Ligao City has become, and what else she can do to improve and make it more productive. 


“INFRES is a commendable program-design indeed, worthy of replication for other fields of development, although enhancing the program with intense relevant components to make it more comprehensive is most welcome. The composition of our LGU’s Special Project Monitoring Board considers it a privilege to have been an INFRES implementor. The overwhelming benefits to be derived directly for our identified marginalized farmers as well as those for the indirect stakeholders, plus the impact to be gained upon the city’s development,in general,shall be of great significance to Ligao’s progress,” Mayor Gonzales added.

Mayor Gonzales (standing) with barangay and ADB officials.

Mayor Gonzales (standing) with barangay and ADB officials.





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