LGUs reluctant to propose irrigation projects — PRDP

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Cateel irrigation project
The Cateel irrigation project, funded under the Mindanao Rural Development Program. -- DAVAO.DA.GOV.PH

DAVAO CITY — Many farm areas around the country stand to benefit from an irrigation system, but proposals from local government units (LGUs) are thin on the ground, an official of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) said.

Danilo T. Alesna, PRDP-Mindanao deputy project director and an engineer, said one reason is that LGUs are not confident of having the technical capacity to put forward an irrigation project for funding under the PRDP.

“(They) are afraid they will not be able to pass the validation,” Mr. Alesna said in an interview.

He added that local officials seem intimidated by what they perceive to be very stringent standards set by the World Bank (WB), the main funding source of the PRDP.

Another reason, he added, is that LGUs are expecting the National Irrigation Administration to build the facilities for them, in the belief that the government agency has the funds.

“Irrigation facilities are among their lowest priority projects among the infrastructure projects that they propose to the PRDP,” he said, referring to LGUs.

Mr. Alesna, however, noted that one success story might encourage local officials.

Under the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP), the predecessor of the PRDP, then Davao Oriental governor and now 1st District Rep. Corazon N. Malanyaon proposed an irrigation system for the town of Cateel as a means of improving production.

“(Former) Gov. Malanyaon did not think twice even when at that time, there was huge counterpart (funding) being demanded from LGUs,” Mr. Alesna said, although the LGU portion of the financing was eventually shouldered by the Department of Agriculture.

When the PRDP was being finalized in 2014, Carolina Figueroa-Geron, then leader of the WB team overseeing the project, said the Cateel irrigation facility can serve as a model for future projects under the PRDP.

“The project will serve as an example for people hit by (super typhoon Haiyan) because this project was also hit, not just once, but repeatedly by disasters,” Ms. Geron said then.

During the construction stage, the southern part of Mindanao was hit by typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) in December 2012, with the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley among the most devastated.

The contractor abandoned the project due to the challenges in continuing with the works following the devastation in the area, particularly in Cateel.

This prompted Ms. Malanyaon to mobilize local resources and ordered the provincial government to take the lead in finding a way to complete it.

And they did, not far off from the original deadline set.

Ms. Geron said the irrigation facility, completed at a cost of P281 million, has proven to be resilient to climate change because the provincial government followed “the rules of implementation even with the challenges that they encountered.”

It has since benefited 13 farm villages covering 2,200 hectares in Cateel and has allowed farmers to go into three planting seasons annually, instead of just two. — Carmelito Q. Francisco