By Vincent Mariel P. Galang, Reporter

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to submit a proposal to the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Council (NEDA-ICC) for the P44-billion Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS).

In a recent interview, DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the proposal will be formulated after the Holy Week and submitted to NEDA-ICC before the month ends. The proposal shall contain the department’s call for the acceptance of the Israeli government’s offer to support the said project.

“We already had a meeting on the P44-billion Solar Irrigation Project….This will already be our proactive action for the next El Niño,” Mr. Piñol told reporters.

Early this year, Israeli agro-industrial company LR Group submitted the P44-billion proposal to the government to fund the deployment of 6,200-Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems, following President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s go-ahead on the initial negotiations. The proposal, involving the company’s subsidiary Innovative Agro Industry Ltd., includes funding as well as bringing in the “computerized data system that will monitor the performance of each and every unit by computer.”

On Wednesday Mr. Piñol discussed the proposal with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Finance (DOF), and the NEDA. The proposal is set to be firmed up in a meeting next week between DA and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

“We presented to them everything…and they appear very excited because sabi nga natin [as we said] two years from now, three years from now, another El Niño will hit us and we will again count the damage. We cannot allow it to happen,” Mr. Piñol said.

“Next week, magkakaroon na ng [there will be a] workshop ang (for) DA at (and) NIA because we will now come up with a national map which would identify which areas would be given this irrigation system,” he added.

The DA will deal directly with the Israeli government on the project, which is payable within 10 years with a two-year grace period. Total cost of the project, which is aimed at irrigating about 500,00 hectares of land for rice, corn, and high value crops, is P50.5 billion, including the local funding counterpart of 6.5 billion. Thirty-six (36) facilities have been completed, to be followed by 100 others.

Mr. Piñol said the proposal will still be up for a Swiss challenge.