Nat'l Irrigation Administration

‘Not enough’ irrigation for rice production – DA official 

Iya Gozum

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

‘Not enough’ irrigation for rice production – DA official 
During the hearing, Tulfo raised anomalies regarding NIA projects such as substandard facilities and an alleged rigged public bidding

MANILA, Philippines – During a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday, August 24, Senator Raffy Tulfo asked Agriculture Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian on whether he was happy with the state of irrigation in the Philippines.

The committee hearing was tackling the alleged irregularities in the projects under the National Irrigation Authority (NIA). Sebastian attended the hearing as the official responsible for rice industry development in the Department of Agriculture.

Tulfo started the hearing with a speech highlighting the lack of irrigation facilities, especially for rice farmers. Sebastian said, “I’m not satisfied with the irrigation that we have.”

“It’s not enough,” he added.

“As of June 2022, only 65.28% of the 3,128,000 hectares of total irrigational areas in the Philippines are irrigated and only 38 of the 80 target provinces and chartered cities have received agriculture machineries, equipment facilities, and small scale irrigation projects,” said Tulfo in his speech.

Sebastian said he challenged the NIA to provide water to at least 1.5 million hectares of rice lands. He was working with the baseline of 2 million hectares of land supposedly irrigated for rice planting.

“My challenge to them is, ‘Can we have at least 1.5 million [hectares]? You assure me that 1.5 million [hectares] with good water during that period from December to April.’ They say it’s not possible at this time.”

Sebastian was also one of the key resource persons during the recently concluded hearing on the DA’s proposed 2024 budget where lawmakers quizzed officials about rice imports and the plans to fulfill the President’s election promise of lowering the price of rice to P20/kilo.

Despite the pathetic job of NIA, Sebastian said he was satisfied with the performance of NIA Administrator Eduardo Guillen.

Water delivery affects rice productivity of farmers. Aside from the concerning thin rice supply of the Philippines, farmers and consumers will have to contend with the impending dry spells brought by El Niño.

In 2018, former president Rodrigo Duterte signed the free irrigation law which condoned irrigation fees for farmers owning not more than 8 hectares of land. The challenge after the condonation, as the ongoing Senate investigation has revealed, was building and repairing working irrigation facilities.

Incomplete, substandard facilities

During the hearing, Tulfo raised several concerns on NIA projects such as substandard facilities, projects pending for more than five years already, and an alleged rigged public bidding.

The NIA, however, said some problems were not within their power to solve anymore. Guillen said they don’t have jurisdiction over communal irrigation systems. He also raised that his office does not have quick response funds, which he said they ask for yearly during the budget season.

“We need more documents to enable us to reach a conclusion that that’s what’s really happening,” Senator Francis Tolentino, chairperson of the blue ribbon committee, said in a media briefing after the hearing.

“Because NIA is also arguing that many projects have been devolved to the local government units, specifically because of Executive Order No. 138.”

Tolentino said there would be a few hearings after this which they will hopefully finish before budget hearings start. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Face, Happy, Head


Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.