MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III didn’t hide his disappointment towards the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), hitting them for missing their targets and their subpar performance during the agency’s 50th anniversary.
Aquino scolded the agency in an NIA event Tuesday, June 25, for failing to meet the target it set of irrigating 81,170 hectares of farmlands in 2012, as well as missing their target in 2011 under the Irrigation Services Development Program.
He said the NIA only irrigated 32,824 hectares in 2011, or 87% of their 37,759 target, while in 2012, they only managed to irrigate 52,372 hectares or 65% of their target.
“Isn’t it that you gave yourselves that target? And it’s very clear you didn’t meet them,” he told the NIA crowd, including employees and NIA Administrator Engr. Antonio S. Nangel.
“I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m dismayed because even today, it’s appearing as if the improvements in the National Irrigation Administration are dismal. We’re already halfway through my term, and it’s a problem that up until now, you still don’t know what you want to do,” he added.
But Aquino did not stop there. He emphasized the NIA needed to do its job, even without him breathing on their back.
“I was elected by the people to watch over the status of every institution of the government. But I’m only human. I’m not a CCTV camera that can monitor every move of every institution 24/7,” a peeved Aquino said.
The NIA, a government corporation, is responsible for irrigation development and management, and is mandated to provide farmers a sustainable irrigation service.
One of the projects cited by Aquino that has yet to be completed is the Balog-Balog irrigation project in the President’s hometown of Tarlac.
He said farmers there depend on the rain for their livelihood, emphasizing its been 21 years since the Balog-Balog project has been planned but until now, after several administrations, it has yet to progress.
Aquino also said a private sponsor has been helping the NIA with the project, but the development has still been minimal. He said the agency’s inefficiency has massively affected farmers.
“It’s been 3 years since our term but until now, it’s as if nothing has happened. If through rain, one harvest cycle can be completed, with irrigation, we can lift the harvest cycles to 5 within 2 years,” he said.
“Now if there was working irrigation, in 3 years, our farmers can complete 7.5 harvest cycles. But right now, we’ve only had 3 harvest cycles. It’s clear we had 4.5 harvest cycles that were wasted which our farmers could have benefited from.”
While clearly frustrated, Aquino offered words of encouragement and urged them to improve their efforts and help farmers.
“There is still time. Let your anniversary be the start of another chance to get together, that we may all foster the culture of change brought forth by tuwid na daan (straight and narrow path),” he said. – Rappler.com
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