July 18, 2024

Consultations are ongoing between the Department of Public Works and Highways, Benguet State University and farmers at the ongoing flood control project at the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet.
Benguet 1st District Engineering Office Assistant DE Edgardo Enriquez said the project was suspended on Feb. 24 following the letter from the Swamp Farmers Association, Inc. alleging there was no consultation conducted prior to the project’s implementation.
Enriquez said the local government unit of La Trinidad is also included among the stakeholders for the consultation.
“Before the preparation of the design and program of works there was consultation with BSU, then when the project started, we had consultation with the farmers,” Enriquez said.
The project is a flood mitigation structure within the Naguilian River basin along Naguilian River section 2 or the Bolo Creek. It started Jan. 31 of this year with a funding of P24,487,767.70 and awarded to D.G.O. Construction.
Enriquez said the flood control project is under the multi-year programming of the DPWH, which will receive continuous funding from the agency. 
Earlier, the farmer’s group through its legal counsel Richard Kilaan requested the DPWH for the termination of the project or for its transfer to other areas.
“Be it noted that the property where you intend to implement the flood control project is a property of the BSU and our client, the Swamp Farmers Association Inc., has an existing lease contract with the BSU, hence, prior consent is needed before any project undertaking is to be implemented in the property,” the letter read.   
BSU President Felipe Comila said the institution and the affected farmers were consulted last year prior to the implementation of the project.
“Regardless, the DPWH have consulted us and we represent the farmers, we were the ones who took care of them; it’s not their lot but it’s the university’s. But of course, we will always listen to them, but they have to listen to us also,” Comila said.
He said most of the farmers have been renting out the area from BSU for years with some reaching almost 30 years with their contracts renewed yearly.
He said there are around five farmer lessees of the university affected by the project. 
Comila said the flood control project would be beneficial for the farmers to help in the drainage of the Strawberry Farm, which is usually flooded when heavy rains come.  
Enriquez said they hope the issues would be sorted out among the stakeholders so that the project would push through before the rainy season. – Ofelia C. Empian