DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 December) – The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) needs some P40 billion a year to put up the necessary irrigation projects in the country.
Newly-installed NIA chief Peter T. Laviña said in an interview at the sidelines of Kapehan sa Davao on Monday that massive construction of irrigation projects is needed to attain rice self-sufficiency.
“Because of our lack of irrigation facilities, we cannot attain rice self-sufficiency. In rice production, requirement is water, so even if we have a dream to produce more rice if we cannot provide water, we cannot attain the dream. NIA is an important ingredient in attaining NIA,” he said.
Citing the 10-year masterplan of NIA made by the previous administration, he said that only 57 percent of the country’s irrigable lands have irrigation systems while the other 43 percent have none.
He said NIA’s budget for next year amounting to P2 billion will not be enough to cover all the expenses.
But he is optimistic that with the support it is getting from the governments of China, Japan and South Korea, and the World Bank and Asian Development Bank “we will be able to not only meet the targets in the masterplan and reach beyond.”
Laviña also urged the local governments to settle their debts for irrigation systems with NIA have which accumulated to P10 billion in the past years despite the announcement of “no irrigation fee” policy.
He said the local governments must pay the amount unless Congress decides to clear them of any liabilities.
Laviña said the P2-billion project for next year will suffice to cover the potential loss of revenues with the implementation of the “no irrigation fee” policy.
Another program that NIA will venture into is the construction of mini hydropower generators along irrigation canals to maximize the use of water, he said.
“If that could generate 500 KW that could light up several houses or one village, we will undertake it. We will maximize the use of our water and help generate renewable energy to help our communities,” he said.
Last November 15, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol announced the appointment of Laviña, a former Davao City councilor and spokesperson of the campaign team of then presidential candidate and now President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as NIA head.
Engr. Czar Sulaik was appointed as his deputy administrator for operations.
Laviña served for three terms as city councilor from 2001 to 2010 while Sulaik, who was recommended to head NIA, served as provincial irrigation officer of North Cotabato during Piñol’s time as governor.
“Laviña’s appointment as the new NIA head is a welcome relief for the Department of Agriculture especially since the agency, while officially under the Office of the President, is one of the most important agencies supporting Philippine agriculture,” Piñol said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)