COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao: Incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol is set to adopt communal irrigation system, a simple yet practical measure, instead of constructing big dams, to ensure increase in rice production in the country.
Pinol said one of the things he would prioritize during his first 100 days in office is to check all irrigation facilities in the country.
The former governor of North Cotabato province recently toured the countryside of Mindanao to see for himself the needs of the farmers as he prepares for his new job.
“Yes, we do have irrigation facilities. But look, they are already silted. If there’s no rain, there’s no water there,” he pointed out.
He explained that communal irrigation, like, putting up water pumps, especially in upland areas, will ensure the country’s food sufficiency especially on rice production.
“If we can only target additional one million hectares for rice and corn, and put up water pumps in those areas, we don’t need to import. You know, agriculture is simple. If we don’t have water, we cannot plant,” Pinol pointed out.
Instead of focusing on irrigation, he lamented, agriculture officials during the previous administrations were geared towards rice importation.
“Some government officials are open for importation because that’s where they could earn money,” Pinol divulged.
The province was considered one of the biggest rice suppliers in South and Central Mindanao.
He cited the Malitubog-Maridagao (Mal-mar) irrigation dam in Carmen, North Cotabato as a classic case of how inept the government was in addressing problems in agriculture.
The dam was built in early ‘90s, the biggest foreign-funded projects in the country and some P4 billion was spent for the project to ensure rice sufficiency in North Cotabato. Funds came from a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
It started in October 1989, which was supposed to be completed six years later. But almost three decades later, the project is still idle. The original cost had to be revised to P3.4 billion, according to the incoming agriculture secretary.
He emphasized that the project, once completed, is supposed to irrigate more than 10,000 hectares of land straddling the municipalities of Pikit and Carmen in Cotabato, and Pagalungan and Pagagawan in Maguindanao—most of them considered conflict affected areas.
“How many billions of pesos do we need to complete the Mal-mar project? President-elect Duterte is 71. I am 62. If we wait for another 10 years to complete such project, we will never be able to achieve food sufficiency. We only need communal irrigation, simple yet practical,” Pinol explained.