Government to spend P43.7 billion for solar irrigation systems

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The Duterte administration is planning to spend P43.7 billion to irrigate an additional 500,000 hectares of land over the next four years through solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) to improve farm productivity.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said President Duterte vowed to allocate at least P43.7 billon for the construction of around 6,250 SPIS until the end of his term. An SPIS, which could irrigate at an average of 80 hectares, costs about P7 million, according to Piñol.

“President Duterte last night pledged that Philippine agriculture will get the money that it needs to undertake a nationwide solar-powered irrigation systems program, which aims to provide water to at least 500,000 hectares of farmlands over the remaining four years of his administration,” the agriculture chief said in a Facebook post on August 7.

Piñol said the President made the commitment during the Cabinet meeting at Malacañang on August 6. “You will get the budget that you need for that,” Duterte was quoted as saying by Piñol in his Facebook post.

The agriculture chief said it was Duterte who brought up the implementation of the SPIS during the Cabinet meeting. It was the President himself who led the launching of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) SPIS program in March 2017.

Piñol said he informed the President that about 169 SPIS units have been completed or undergoing construction this year, but the implementation of the program could be delayed due to budget cuts.

“The [2019] budget will only allow us to build 10 additional units,” he said. “I told the President that the DA will have to abandon some of its nonessential programs and realign the funds to the SPIS program for 2019, with a target of at least 100 additional units.”

The additional 500,000 hectares would be able to produce at least 2 million metric tons (MMT) of rice, according to Piñol.

“In fact, the estimate is that the additional 500,000 hectares of unirrigated rice farms, if served by small irrigation systems, could produce an average of 6 metric tons per harvest twice a year,” he said.

“This would mean an additional rice production of 4 MMT every year, which, if dried and milled, with a 50-percent recovery, could bring in 2 MMT of rice,” he added.

Piñol said Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno informed the President that the government has the resources to fund the DA’s SPIS program.

“Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told the President during the discussion that the money for the SPIS program could come from the Imported Rice Tariffication Program and the regular funds to be included in the national budget for 2020,” he said.

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