THE NATIONAL Irrigation Administration (NIA) needs to be under the control of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in order to expand irrigation coverage.   

Meron kaming proposal na kung puwede, kung mamarapatin po ng mahal na Pangulo, ay ilipat na sa DA itong NIA (We have a proposal, which I hope the President approves, to transfer NIA to the DA) because water is agriculture. Agriculture is life,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said in a television appearance Tuesday.   

Mr. Dar said the Philippines has over 1.2 million hectares of rice land that stand to benefit from unified control of irrigation development, and estimated that it would take 20 years for the government to cover such an area.   

The NIA is under the control of the Office of the President as provided for by Executive Order No. 165, signed by President Benigno S. Aquino III in May 2014.   

Meanwhile, Mr. Dar said there are proposals to open up NIA for public-private partnerships to improve the irrigation system.   

“We encourage the private sector to invest and that they be paid accordingly. That way you have more partners from the private sector investing in the development of national irrigation systems,” Mr. Dar said.   

During a recent House Committee on Appropriations hearing, Mr. Dar asked for an additional P30 billion on top of its proposed 2022 budget of P91 billion to further improve agricultural production.  

The DA’s proposed 2022 budget is well below the P231.7-billion budget it originally requested, but is 1.05% higher than its 2021 allocation.   

Meanwhile, NIA presented in the same hearing a 2022 budget proposal of P32.08 billion, down 1.18% from its 2021 budget. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave