THE National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said it earmarked up to P40 billion for new irrigation projects this year.

“There will be P35 billion to P40 billion for new projects this year, to irrigate around 40 thousand hectares,” NIA Administrator Eduardo G. Guillen told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of a water forum on Tuesday.

As of 2023, the NIA has completed 68% of its national irrigation development commitments, servicing an estimated 2.11 million hectares, with 1.1 million hectares still to be irrigated.

Mr. Guillen added that it is possible for up to a 2% increase in irrigated land this year, saying, “We need other ways to fast-track these projects.”

NIA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently signed an agreement to grant water rights to private sector investors for multipurpose projects.

The government budgeted P70.22 billion for the NIA in 2024.

Mr. Guillen has said that the agency is also planning to build several solar-powered irrigation systems this year.

The NIA has about 183 solar-powered irrigation sites in the pipeline for 2024. It is budgeting about P1.72 billion to irrigate 2,168 hectares.

The NIA is also proposing an additional 791 potential sites across 39,694 hectares, which requires initial funding of P30 billion for solar-powered irrigation projects.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., has announced a solar irrigation program to help achieve rice self-sufficiency and mitigate the impact of El Niño. — Adrian H. Halili