LEGAZPI CITY – A group of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) composed of 97 farmers from Barangay Catan-agan in Juban, Sorsogon received a solar-powered irrigation pump (SPIP) project from national government agencies.

In a phone interview on Monday, Gerald Buensalida, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-5 spokesperson, said the project was turned over last week to the Catan-agan Farmers' Irrigators Association, Inc., and its operation is expected to increase the ARBs' rice production.

"The SPIP project was worth PHP12 million project is the second phase of the PHP37-million mega irrigation project," Buensalida said.

He added that the second phase covers the supply, delivery, and installation of three more sets of solar-powered pumps and accessories, as well as the lining of a 761.50-meter canal.

National Irrigation Authority (NIA) coordinator Emma Manlagnit said it is the first SPIP project of the NIA and DAR in Bicol which is seen to irrigate a total of 89 hectares of farms in the town.

"Currently, we have six pumps, but the final design will consist of nine pumps. Each pump is equipped with 27 solar panels. The remaining three pumps will be built next year if further funding is granted, so there is no need for concern. Our only problem is the lack of canals. And with DAR's help, canal systems can be improved," she added.

Manlagnit said the solar panels can last up to 25 years if properly maintained, but noted that due to its sensitivity, the government rarely grants this type of project.

She said the first phase of the project was completed in January 2019, but the third and final phase has yet to be implemented.

Sorsogon agrarian reform chief Nida Santiago told the farmers that DAR Secretary Bernie Cruz wants to thank everyone who made this project a reality.

“This is merely the beginning of a transformation that the recipients will eventually experience," Santiago said. (PNA)