A FARMERS’ organization has expressed its support for the proposed transfer of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) to the Department of Agriculture (DA), and away from its current parent organization, the Office of the President (OP).

Raul Q. Montemayor, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) National Manager, said NIA needs to be under DA jurisdiction since all of its activities concerned food production.

“The agency’s investment priorities and program strategies must be closely aligned and synchronized with the DA’s plans and targets,” Mr. Montemayor said in a statement Friday.

“The design and allocation of irrigation facilities must jibe with the DA’s intention to promote diversified instead of mono-crop farming, while also addressing risks from droughts, typhoons and other calamities that are expected to intensify because of climate change,” he added.

The DA recently issued a statement announcing that the Department of Finance (DoF) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) have expressed their support for NIA’s transfer.

In April, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar submitted a letter to President Rodrigo R. Duterte requesting the transfer, saying that it “will support better integration and enhance coordination to maximize available resource to improve the productivity of Philippine agriculture.”

The FFF also warned the government against “ill-conceived and ill-timed” transfers of DA agencies to other departments, adding that there is a need to fully consult stakeholders before the transfers are finalized.

Asked to comment, NIA Administrator Ricardo R. Visaya said in a mobile phone message to BusinessWorld that the proposed transfer to the DA is “no big deal.”

“We can still be as effective as we are now even if we will be with the DA. What is important is to continuously improve our services to the farmers particularly in water delivery to their farms efficiently and effectively,” Mr. Visaya said.

“The DA and NIA have a common objective of ensuring food security in our country. So, I am sure that joining the DA will never hamper our mission objectives. Instead, it may even enhance food production nationwide,” he added.

The Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) was recently transferred to the DoF by Executive Order (EO) 148. The PCIC had been an arm of the DA since 2002.

The NIA was an OP agency upon its creation in 1963. It was transferred to the Department of Public Works, Transportation, and Communication in 1972, and was attached to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and DA in 1987.

In 1992, the NIA returned to OP and was transferred again to the DA. In 2014, NIA was moved to the OP by EO No. 165.  – Revin Mikhael D. Ochave