Israel signs P44-B loan agreement to support solar irrigation

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THE Agriculture department said Israel has agreed to assist the Philippines in a project that intends to promote the use of solar-powered irrigation.

In a social media post Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said both sides signed the Implementing Agreement on Agricultural Cooperation Tuesday, with Israel represented by Ambassador to the Philippines Rafael Harpaz.

The agreement covers the funding of the Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS) program through a long-term loan of P44 billion provided by Israel. The funding plan calls for repayment within 10 years and a grace period of two years. The total cost of the project is P50.5 billion, including counterpart funding of P6.6 billion.

The project will establish a network of 6,200 SPIS stations, which will irrigate 500,000 hectares of rice farms and other high-value crops over the next three years.

Israel’s LR Group, among others, has expressed interest in setting up the system in the Philippines.

The individual solar power stations are connected in a network that will allow the Department of Agriculture (DA) to monitor each irrigation area. The system will also introduce “fertigation,” under which the irrigation water will be mixed with fertilizer and other farm inputs.

Israel has donated two prototypes, with one set up in a five-hectare farm, and the other in a 100-hectare farm. These are expected to be operational by the end of July.

In May, the DA agreed to fast-track the project to protect the farmers from the next El Niño. According to the latest updates, crop damage from the dry spell was estimated at P7.96 billion on lost volume of 447,889 metric tons.

The Philippines has about 3.9 million hectares of farmland, with only 1.2 million effectively irrigated. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang