President Duterte may soon issue an executive order (EO) that will authorize the return of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to the Department of Agriculture (DA), according to Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar.
Dar said the EO is already being discussed by the Cabinet. The transfer of NIA to the DA, he said, will allow the government to better manage the country’s water sources.
“Our proposal has long been overdue. But when the Ukraine war happened, I said during the discussions that we would have better water utilization if the NIA would be under the oversight of the DA. And he [Duterte] supported it publicly,” Dar said in a recent interview with reporters.
“So, the discussion is already at the EO level. And hopefully, any time soon, the EO will transferring NIA [back to the DA] will be issued.”
The NIA, which was originally under the DA, was transferred to the Office of President (OP) in 2014 during the Aquino administration.
Once the NIA is reverted back to the DA, Dar said he would immediately call for a meeting of the board to “set the agency’s priorities straight” so it could help improve the productivity of Filipino farmers.
“We will now have to influence the priorities of the NIA even in the next administration. If there is a ‘Build, Build, Build’ [program], it now has to support Build, Build, Build in agriculture—and that is for NIA,” he said.
Dar said the NIA will be able to construct irrigation systems covering 1.2 million hectares of rice farms if at least one fourth of the annual “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program budget would be allocated to the agency.
“Big infrastructure is needed for the 1.2 million hectares needing irrigation. One-fourth of the budget yearly for ‘Build, Build, Build,’ should be used to construct irrigation systems,” he said.
“If we have that, it will [enable] us to go for higher sufficiency levels in rice.”
In March, Duterte approved the transfer of the supervision of the NIA to the DA as one of the measures to mitigate the impact of the Ukraine-Russia war on local food supply and prices.
The Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority have already expressed their support for the transfer of the NIA from the OP to the DA.
“By making NIA an attached agency of the DA, we believe that both agencies will be better able to fulfill their respective mandates and deliver better outcomes for their shared benefit—the Filipino farmers,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez said in an earlier statement.
“NEDA agrees with the merits raised by the DA to ensure stronger and better complementation of interventions and activities to develop the agriculture sector,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said.
Image credits: www.nia.gov.ph