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Pantabangan water level declining

The water level at Pantabangan Dam, one of the largest dams in Asia, is declining, that could affect around 141,430 hectares of rice farms in Central Luzon, Metro Manila’s main source of rice.

As of September 5, Pantabangan Dam’s raw water line (RWL) is at 182.17 meters, which is 30.97 meters below its normal high water level of 216 meters.

To salvage the situation, the Philippine government will conduct cloudseeding operations in some parts of the region. 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it has partnered with the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to undertake cloudseeding operations in Central Luzon to stem the declining water level in Pantabangan Dam.

At present, farms in some parts of Central Luzon, where the bulk of the rice areas are in their critical reproductive stage, are parched and badly need irrigation.  

Normally, these farms source their irrigation requirements from Pantabangan, which irrigates more than a hundred thousands of hectares of rice farms in the region.

The multi-purpose dam, an earth-fill embankment dam on the Pampanga River, also generates 112 megawatts of hydroelectric power.

DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) Director Sonia Salguero said this means the stored water at Pantabangan Dam is “not enough to supply the irrigation requirements” particularly of the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS) operated by NIA. 

For this rainy season, more than 141,430 hectares of farms are programmed to be served by UPRIIS.

Because of this, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar has already given the go-signal for BSWM to commence CSOps to induce rains over parts of Central Luzon.

“With this initiative, we can ensure a respectable rice harvest in Central Luzon, particularly in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Bulacan and Tarlac,” Dar said.

Salguero said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has already given clearance for the cloudseeding to proceed, making use of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija as base of operations. NIA has initially allotted P6 million for the project.  

Dar said the DA is vigorously partnering with NIA and irrigators’ associations to ensure adequate water for rice farms in Central Luzon, which remains as the country’s rice granary.

“Central Luzon is a critical component in our objective to achieve food security, especially for residents in the National Capital Region,” the DA chief said. 

For this year, the DA is targeting record palay output of 20.34 million MT, which is 8 percent higher than the 2019 production.

Moving forward, NIA expects that the possible arrival of La NiƱa in the coming months may help increase the water level of Pantabangan Dam.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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