NIA execs told: Quit if you can’t provide free water to farmers
Resign and leave government.
This was the stern notice of incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol to officials of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) who questioned President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free irrigation for farmers.
“Anybody in government who does not share President Duterte’s vision for the Filipino farmer is free to leave and find another job,” Piñol said in a Facebook post.
Piñol was reacting to the NIA statement saying “Duterte’s promise of free irrigation water for the farmers would adversely affect the operations of the agency.”
The NIA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC), is in charge of the construction and maintenance of all irrigation facilities in the Philippines.
During the campaign period, Duterte has vowed to scrap irrigation fees paid by farmers to the NIA. He said irrigation services for Filipino farmers should be free of charge.
“When Duterte makes a commitment, it is a promise which must be fulfilled and I, as his alter-ego in the agriculture department, will make sure that it will be realized,” Piñol said.
Piñol said he was irritated by the statement of NIA, saying the promise of free irrigation was already discussed during his transition meeting with the four agencies under the Office of the President on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM).
“To hear a statement from the NIA questioning that commitment is not only irritating but also a manifestation of the malady afflicting people in government—that is the failure to think outside the box to help people,” he said.
He said he remembered telling NIA Administrator Wencie Padernal “to come up with a strategy on how to ensure that the presidential promise is fulfilled.”
“The issue of free irrigation for the Filipino farmers is a presidential commitment and it is non-negotiable. Find a way to make sure it is implemented by 2017. I remembered telling Padernal,” he said.
Piñol said he had received a complaint from Department of Agriculture regional director Jun Alviar that the NIA in Region 2 has failed to release the water to irrigate the farms despite repeated requests.
“There is really something wrong with the way the NIA is being managed right now,” he said.
He remembered telling Alviar “to relay to the NIA director my request for him to release the water as requested by the farmers or else my first official act as Secretary of Agriculture by July 1 will be to fire him.”
Piñol reminded people in government and his future colleagues in the agriculture department of their mandate “not to lord it over the people but to serve them.”
“If you find this hard to understand and difficult to implement, I will place a big garbage can in front of my office on July 1,” he said.
“You could throw in your resignation letters in that trash can and leave government,” he added. IDL/rga
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