Irrigation agency chief to resign after his successor is named

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National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Administrator Antonio Nangel on Wednesday said he will resign once President Benigno Aquino 3rd appoints his replacement.

In an interview, Nangel said he would step down following Aquino’s announcement that his term as NIA chief will not be renewed because of the agency’s “dismal” performance.

“I serve at the pleasure of the President. I don’t see any problem with that [service extension],” Nangel said.

Nangel retired from government service last February 14 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65, but his term was extended until last June 30.

But under the provision of the Commission on Good Governance, he is in a holdover position until such time that Aquino names his successor.

It may take another year before the new chief takes over the agency.

At the NIA’s 50th anniversary last week, Aquino publicly berated Nangel, pointing out during his speech the lackluster performance of the NIA.

The President said that from 2011 to 2009, NIA had only a 66-percent accomplishment rate for “new areas of irrigation.”

In 2011, the NIA set 37,759 hectares of farmland for irrigation, but only 87 percent, or 32,824 ha, was actually irrigated.

The President noted that the agency aimed to irrigate 81,170 ha in 2012, but watered only 65 percent, or 52,372 ha.

Nangel said he has discussed the issue with the President at a meeting with the National Economic and Development Authority in Malacanang.

“We, together with Agriculture Secretary (Proceso) Alcala, met with the President and explained the issue,” he said.

Nangel said he is “happy” with his performance over the last three years,  particularly the agency’s contribution in achieving the government’s rice self sufficiency targets.

“To date, less than 4,000 hectares are needed for us to meet our targets for the rice self-sufficiency program,” he said.

“In fact, by July 2013, we are confident that we will complete our irrigation target of 190,000 hectares under the rice self-sufficiency program,” Nangel said.

He said that they would be able to complete by September the targets for new, restored and rehabilitated irrigation facilities.

For 2013, NIA was 80 percent on target or 43,096 hectares out of 53,870-hectare for restored areas; 72 percent (58,854 ha) out of 81,170-hectare target for newly irrigated areas; and even exceeded rehabilitation target of 88,580 ha with the completion of 108,600 hectares.

“If ever there were delays for the implementation of the projects, these were that result of several factors that were beyond our control,” Nangel admitted, noting that there were 11 typhoons that hit the country in 2012.

Nangel stressed that achievements made in the irrigation sector has brought the Philippines closure to its self-sufficiency targets not only in rice, but also in other food staples.

Over the past three years, the country saw an unprecedented increase in rice production, from 15.77 million MT in 2010, to 16.68 MMT in 2011, and 18.03 MMT last year. All these are well within targets set by the Food Staples Sufficiency Program,

This year, the 20.04-million MT production target will translate to 13.03 MMT of milled rice, more than enough to meet the 11.23 MMT of rice needed to feed the population.

“Because of the massive increase in our rice ecosystems, particularly in the previous non-irrigated areas, we are now self-sufficient,” he said.

Besides the accomplishments in irrigation, the NIA chief also boasted that they were able to establish various convergence programs with the Department of Agriculture, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Land Bank of the Philippines and local government units for the implementation of projects designed to further boost rice production in the country.

JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ

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