Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto wants a Senate probe on the “monumental delays” in irrigation projects, warning that the country’s food security and the income of its farmers will be hurt “if these projects will not flow like water.”
Because one cannot grow crops without water, Recto said “the pipeline of National Irrigation Administration projects, like farm canals, must be desilted of procurement and implementation blockages.”
Recto said irrigation formed part of the rural “Build, Build, Build” and because of its importance, it must be “the focus of close and constant executive and legislative oversight as well.”
“As they say, ‘We cannot grow, grow, grow food, if we will not build, build, build our rural and farm infrastructure,’” Recto said in a statement.
In a resolution he will file Tuesday, Recto recalled that government had budgeted more than a quarter of a trillion pesos for irrigation projects from 2009 to 2019.
“But despite Congress appropriating some P260 billion for the NIA during this period, irrigation coverage had increased at an annual average of only 1.63 percent over the past 20 years,” Recto said.
“While work was done on 580,000 hectares from 1999 to 2018, climate change, land conversion and other disruptions had, however, cut the country’s irrigable area by 1.5 million hectares during the same period,” Recto said.
Recto said annual Commission on Audit reports on the agency “consistently flagged serious slippages in deliverables, that findings for each year seems to be an echo of the previous one.”
In 2014, 214 projects with a combined worth of P5.43 billion faced implementation delays, as did almost $100 million worth of foreign assisted projects.
The number rose in 2015 to 183 irrigation projects, with a total contract amount of P8.24 billion.
In 2016, COA auditors reported “significant delays” in the implementation of 82 projects with a total contract cost of P4.54 billion. In addition, 25 contracts worth P6 billion, incurred “significant negative slippages.”
In 2017, COA said delays plagued 436 irrigation contracts and projects with an aggregate cost of P11.94 billion.
And in its report for 2018, COA said lack of proper project planning and management had delayed the completion of 299 irrigation contracts and projects amounting to P20.7 billion.
Recto said he hopes that the Senate inquiry will be a “constructive problem-solving exercise whose aim is to energize an agency vital to putting food on the Filipino family’s table.”
“The NIA has a proud tradition of professionalism. But it needs help in finding ways to be reliable and relevant to the millions of farmers who depend on it, in this age of tariffication and climate change,” Recto said.