To fight El Niño: NIA asks House to restore P90-B budget that DBM slashed
MANILA, Philippines — The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has asked the House of Representatives to restore the around P90-billion worth of funding that was removed in the proposed 2024 budget, claiming that it would be crucial to ensuring food security and preparing for the El Niño season.
Letters sent by NIA Acting Administrator Eduardo Guillen to House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez — copies of which were released to House reporters on Thursday — showed the NIA head is asking for the restoration of their proposal of a P132.3 million budget for 2024.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which prepares the National Expenditures Program (NEP), allocated P41.27 million for the NIA.
“We firmly believe that our original budget ceiling request aligns with these factors and would allow us to fulfill our mission better and serve the interest of the Filipino people,” Guillen said in his letter.
According to NIA, there has been a significant increase in the yield of irrigated farms like in Nueva Ecija where the Pantabangan dam’s supply of water resulted to an average yield of seven tons per hectare — higher than the national average of four tons per hectare.
“This is not ideal, considering the urgent need to address food security and uplift the livelihoods of our farmers. To expedite the progress and substantially contribute to accelerated and inclusive economic growth, I strongly recommended a dramatic increase in funding for irrigation infrastructure,” he added.
In the letter, Guillen mentioned three main reasons as to why NIA needs a higher budget:
- President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s programs geared toward food supply and security, inflation dwindling, and poverty reduction
- NIA masterplan containing programs, activities, and projects that are consistent with the economic programs of the administration
- Preparations for the upcoming national agricultural crisis due to the El Niño phenomenon
“These forecasts […] highlight the potential impact of El Niño on weather patterns and agricultural conditions. The early formation and increased likelihood of a strong El Niño call for heightened preparedness and proactive measures to mitigate the potential adverse effects on affected regions, particularly in terms of water resources and agricultural productivity,” Guillen said.
“This surprising crisis forecast forces a rethink of our budgetary allocations in favor of irrigation projects, which means a substantial increase in budget level for FY (fiscal year) 2024 and utilization of FY 2023 savings,” he added.
The Philippines has encountered agricultural problems recently, particularly with rice, as prices have surged due to a mix of different factors. The higher than usual prices have forced the President to place a P41 per kilogram cap on regular-milled rice, and P45 per kilogram on well-milled rice.
The rice problem also led to suggestions that the rice import tariffs be lowered or removed temporarily, to ensure that imported rice comes in to stabilize prices. To counter that, Marcos increased the palay buying prices of the National Food Authority, so that farmers would not lose income.
All of these issues, several experts believe, will be exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon.