AGRICULTURE SECRETARY Emmanuel F. Piñol said on Monday that his department is pushing for the wider adoption of solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) as a means of attaining rice self-sufficiency.
“Water is an indispensable requirement in the program to increase rice production. Sadly though, the concept of constructing irrigation facilities by building mega-dams is outdated,” Mr. Piñol said in a social media post.
“Government must irrigate 80,000 hectares annually to keep up with the rice needs of the growing population. The NIA, however, can provide water for only about 30,000 hectares a year, resulting in a deficit of around 50,000 hectares,” according to Mr. Piñol.
Mr. Piñol made the announcement following the opening of the P49 million water diversion canal in Kanibong, Tulunan, North Cotabato which can irrigate about 600 hectares of rice farms.
Mr. Piñol said that the canal is expected to boost farmers’ income and reduce poverty.
Mr. Piñol said that SPIS which consists of solar panels, pumps, water storage, and pipes, can be set up within months at a cost of about P105,000 per hectare. He said that NIA’s conventional irrigation systems cost as much as P450,000 per hectare.
“There is a need for paradigm shift in irrigation systems construction and it must be done right away. Or else, we will never be able to provide for the rice needs of this country,” Mr. Piñol said.
“It is impossible to catch up if we just rely on the conventional way of irrigating,” according to Mr. Piñol.
Mr. Piñol said that of the 3.9 million hectares planted to rice, only 1.2 million hectares are irrigated. The remaining 2.7 million hectares depend on rain, and farmers can only plant in these locations once a year. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio