Employees of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) have asked President Benigno Aquino III to investigate three agency officials for changing procedures to allow a contractor to corner a P105-million project in Mindanao instead of letting farmers provide the labor as an alternative source of livelihood.
Representatives of six organizations signed an open letter to the President, seeking the investigation of Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta, acting NIA chair; Lorna Grace Rosario, deputy administrator for administrative and finance; and Modesto Membreve, acting deputy administrator for engineering and operation.
“We, likewise, request that pending investigation, the (NIA) officials be relieved and replaced with competent and honest-to-goodness career officials who will not enrich themselves while in office,” they said.
The signatories were representatives of the NIA Employees Association of the Philippines (NIAEASP), National Federation of Employees of the Department of Agriculture, Association of Regional Directors and Operations Managers (Ardoma), Project Manager’s Society, National Confederation of Irrigators Association, and Irrigation Superintendent Association of the Philippines.
Willie Ablan, NIAEASP district president for Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City), said his group was surprised that Membreve had ordered the repackaging of the P105-million Allah River Irrigation System project.
He said the NIA was supposed to undertake the irrigation project, which covers nine barangays in South Cotabato and seven barangays in Sultan Kudarat.
Entire project to 1 contractor
Under the previous procedure, Ablan said the NIA was supposed to hire affected farmers since they could not farm while the project was ongoing.
The farmers were to provide 70 percent of the labor force. The remaining 30 percent would come from the contractors.
But Membreve changed the procedure and would instead award the entire project to one contractor, raising suspicions of payoffs, according to Ablan.
He also pointed out that the project was too big to be handled by one contractor. “It was repackaged to one contract and they (three NIA officials) control whoever wins in the bidding.”
Ablan said bidding of the project had not been set after NIA employees and farmers questioned the repacking of the project.
The Allah RIS (River Irrigation System) Federation of Irrigators Association (FIA) signed a resolution asking Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala not to repackage the project.
Allah RIS-FIA is an umbrella organization composed of Allah RIS Dam I Federation of Irrigators Associations Inc. and Allah RIS Dam II Federation of Irrigators Associations Inc.
“Projects implemented through contracts are always delayed and most contractors, in fact, asked for construction extension, greatly affecting the farming activities of the farmers,” they said.
The resolution also said that the farmers could not farm for six months when the water supply would be cut off during the construction of proposed Allah RIS.
“In the past project implementation, employing contractors from an irrigators’ association allows for faster implementation and completion of the project,” the resolution said.
Engineer Vicente Galvez, a former regional irrigation manager for Cagayan Valley, said at a news conference that the bidding of the project would be done in the central office “for reasons we do not exactly know.”
He also lamented the indiscriminate reshuffling of officials that had demoralized regional, project, department and irrigation management office managers.
Galvez, Association of Regional Directors and Operations Managers (Ardoma) head who is set to retire next year when he turns 65, was one of the regional irrigation managers affected in the reshuffling. He was transferred from Cagayan Valley to the central office in Manila.