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Private sector urged: Invest in PH irrigation

The Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA) have called on the private sector to invest in the development of various irrigation technologies to meet water requirements in the farm sector, especially during dry seasons.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar speaks during a briefing at his department in Quezon City on Monday. PHOTO BY RUY L. MARTINEZ

In a hearing at the House of Representatives on Friday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar underscored the need for public-private partnership in constructing national irrigation and impounding systems across the country to boost local farmers’ production.

“On top of what the NIA is trying to do in terms of the development of national irrigation systems, the DA must [come] forward and work with various partners in implementing rainwater harvesting technologies so that during the dry season, you have more water that you can use for economic activities,” Dar said.

Dar said the country currently has one of the highest rainfall in the world at 2,200 millimeters per year, but only 6 percent of the figure is being harvested. In comparison, India has an average annual rainfall of only 300-650 millimeters but it collects 60 percent of that amount.

To address this, Dar said the government will also look at building cascading dams for flood mitigation “so that we contain all these water for economic purposes downstream.”

At the rate the government is investing in terms of national irrigation systems, he said it will take another 18 to 20 years for the Philippines to accelerate the implementation of existing irrigation projects. Thus, the need for strong involvement of the private sector to invest in this area.

“[W]e now encourage private sector investors to come forward and build and transfer such systems to NIA so that the budget allocated to NIA will be the ones to pay the various investors in terms of the construction of national irrigation systems that can accelerate from 18 years to even just 6 years,” he explained.

During the hearing, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman also urged for a higher budget for NIA to “offset” the disadvantages of not having huge water impounding dams.

“Unfortunately, the budget for irrigation is stationary even anemic. So I think there is a need to really increase the budget for irrigation and I hope the committee can find a way on augmenting that budget,” Lagman said.

For 2020, NIA’s proposed budget is P36.2 billion, just P240 million higher from its budget for this year, NIA Department Manager for Corporate Planning Services Engr. Rogelia Dela Torre told The Manila Times.

Dar, however, vowed that the DA will “come forward” to propose “bigger programs” to be submitted to the Congress. “The budget that has been proposed is just considering little amount for small water impounding systems. We will come bigger and much bigger by 2021,” he said.

NIA is the lead government agency mandated to develop all possible sources of water for irrigation and provide efficient and reliable irrigation services to Filipino farmers through the acceleration of infrastructure and development of farming industry.

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