RP losing 30,000 hectares of ricelands daily

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said illegal land conversions and human settlements are already a major threat to the irrigation infrastructure vital to the country’s food security.

“We are losing 30,000 hectares of ricelands a day because of this problem,” Yap said when he visited the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) Wednesday.

He said it is imperative for the national government to rehabilitate the remaining irrigation networks to ensure adequate water will be available to rice farmers.

Yap and Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Paras proceeded to Bukidnon to inspect the province’s irrigation network.

Paras said the Manupali irrigation network, constructed during the administration of President Corazon Aquino in the 1980s to feed water to the rice-producing municipality of Valencia, badly needs rehabilitation.

He said developers trying to cash in on the flourishing economy of Valencia, have hastily converted lands where the irrigation canals were constructed, into subdivisions and settlements.

Paras said the conversion of agricultural land goes on despite the presence of agriculture officials in the municipal land use committees nationwide.

Under the present set-up, local government units operate irrigation systems that feed less than 1,000 hectares. For 1,000 hectares up, the National Irrigation Administration, where Paras once served as administrator, maintains and operates the system.

Paras said the national government is planning to rehabilitate the network by spending P50,000 per hectare.

“It is a lot cheaper compared to spending P500,000 per hectare building a new network,” Paras said.