Peter Laviña is new NIA head – Piñol

NEW CHIEF. President Rodrigo Duterte's former campaign spokesperson has been appointed as new administrator of the National Irrigation Administration.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has tapped Deputy Cabinet Secretary Peter Tiu Laviña as chief of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA),  Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol announced on  Tuesday, November 15.

Piñol, who had recommended Maguindanao engineer Czar Sulaik for the position, made the announcement in a Facebook post.

"Laviña's appointment as the new NIA head is a welcome relief for the Dept of Agriculture especially since the agency, while officially under the Office of the President, is one of the most important agencies supporting Philippine agriculture," Piñol said.

Laviña, Duterte's campaign spokesperson, is a former Davao City councilor. Duterte earlier appointed Laviña's wife, Evelyn, as agriculture undersecretary for high-value crops. (PODCAST: Duterte campaign ‘dominates social media’)

Piñol also announced the appointment of Sulaik, whom he had recommended as NIA chief, as the agency's deputy administrator for operations. He said Sulaik served as provincial irrigation officer in North Cotabato when he was governor.

The agriculture chief said Secretary Bong Go, Special Executive Assistant to the President, informed him of the NIA appointments in Malacañang on Monday.

The incoming NIA chief outlined his goals in a Facebook post on Tuesday, among them, to take the lead in providing free irrigation services to farmers, support Piñol's bid for rice self-sufficiency, and to "harness irrigation water to produce power to light up rural homes."

Providing free irrigation is among Duterte's campaign promises to the agriculture sector. Piñol said he expects the new NIA chief to work closely with the Department of Agriculture, particularly in "scheduling of the release of irrigation water for the rice farms which had been a problematic issue for so long."

Out of the targeted 3 million hectares, only 1.7 million hectares of land have been provided with irrigation services. The DA is targetting to fill in 75% of this gap in 10 years.

During a budget briefing in August, Piñol disclosed that of the 1.7 million hectares of land with irrigation services, 400,000 hectares have non-functioning irrigation systems. –

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.