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Proposal seeks bigger budget for irrigation.

A proposed law is being prepared to provide the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) with funds for its operations as the Duterte administration continues to find ways on how to sustain free irrigation services.

Rep. Arthur C. Yap (Bohol, third district) said he was preparing a bill that would also enable the NIA to modernize and to receive sufficient funds to carry out its work.

Following a meeting with NIA Administrator Peter Lavina and other NIA officials, Yap said 1.7 million hectares of rice-producing farms were irrigated and half a million hectares could still be irrigated.

Citing NIA data, Yap said that of the 1.7 million hectares of irrigated rice lands, cropping intensity, or the number of times a crop was planted a year in a given area, was only about 1.55 times.

This means that even in irrigated farms, rice could not be planted twice a year mainly because some irrigation facilities need repair or rehabilitation.

Yap was agriculture secretary during the Arroyo administration, when NIA was under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture.

During the Aquino Administration, the NIA was transferred to the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization created in 2014. Currently, it is under the supervision of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary.

Yap said that in order for the NIA to attend to irrigation facilities that needed repair- and thus enable all irrigated farms two crop cycles a year- the agency needed P87 billion.

'[Also,] there are still about one million hectares of potentially irrigable land and which will cost about P325 billion in 10 years time,' he said.

Considering that water infrastructure could be used for sanitation, transportation, power and irrigation, he said the expenses could be justified, especially since an improved cropping intensity would lessen the country's rice importation.

'President Duterte promised free irrigation to farmers as part of his campaign promise but without a comprehensive financial and construction program to restore, rehabilitate, maintain and expand the current irrigated lands in the country, there won't be sufficient water to distribute, if water actually even reaches the farms,' Yap said.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Dec 26, 2016
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