Delayed multi-billion peso irrigation projects hit; Senate probe sought
MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday called for an investigation on the yearly delays in the implementation and completion of farm irrigation projects worth billions of pesos.
In a statement, Recto warned that food security and the income of Filipino farmers would be at risk “if these projects will not flow like water.”
Recto said that “the pipeline of National Irrigation Administration (NIA) projects, like farm canals, must be desilted of procurement and implementation blockages.”
“As they say, ‘we cannot grow, grow, grow food, if we will not build, build, build our rural and farm infrastructure,’” Recto said, noting that irrigation forms part of the rural Build, Build, Build initiative.
He added that due to the importance of irrigation, it must be “the focus of close and constant executive and legislative oversight as well.”
Recto, in a resolution he would file on Monday, noted that government had budgeted more than a quarter of a trillion pesos for irrigation projects from 2009 to 2019.
“But despite Congress appropriating some P260 billion for the NIA during this period, irrigation coverage had increased at an annual average of only 1.63 percent over the past 20 years,” he said.
“While work was done on 580,000 hectares from 1999 to 2018, climate change, land conversion and other disruptions had, however, cut the country’s irrigable area by 1.5 million hectares during the same period,” he added.
He pointed out that annual reports by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the NIA “consistently flagged serious slippages in deliverables, that findings for each year seem to be an echo of the previous one.”
Recto noted that 214 projects with a combined worth of P5.43 billion as well as $100 million worth of foreign assisted projects faced implementation delays in 2014.
“The number rose in 2015 to 183 irrigation projects, with a total contract amount of P8.24 billion,” he added.
The senator further said that in 2016, the state auditors reported “significant delays” in the implementation of 82 projects with a total contract cost of P4.54 billion.
Twenty-five contracts worth P6 billion also incurred “significant negative slippages” in the same year, he added.
In 2017, Recto said COA reported that delays plagued 436 irrigation contracts and projects with an aggregate cost of P11.94 billion.
Citing a COA report in 2018, he noted that state auditors attributed the delay in the completion of 299 irrigation contracts and projects worth P20.7 billion to the lack of proper project planning and management.
Recto expressed hope that the Senate investigation would be a “constructive problem-solving exercise whose aim is to energize an agency vital to putting food on the Filipino family’s table.”
“The NIA has a proud tradition of professionalism. But it needs help in finding ways to be reliable and relevant to the millions of farmers who depend on it, in this age of tariffication and climate change,” he said. /gsg