Yap orders NIA to report on irrigation funds
Manila (13 September) -- Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap ordered the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to submit a report regarding the P3.1 billion budget for the rehabilitation and restoration of all irrigation systems nationwide.
Yap said that the Department of Agriculture (DA) has already asked NIA Administrator Marcelino Tugaoen to make a status report on the project, so that it will be immediately submitted to the congress.
He likewise assured the public that the DA is focused on completing the irrigation repair of the 55,000 hectares rice fields in the country before December this year.
Yap also reacted to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) allegation that the DA had diverted the irrigation funds to unrelated purposes.
"The KMP has nothing to worry about regarding the irrigation repair because we'll finish the 55,000 hectares before December," Yap said.
He said that it was also pretty surprising that Rep. Satur Ocampo was quoted by KMP as one who revealed the suspected fund diversion, adding that in fact the gentlemen of Bayan Muna is fully backing the DA.
"During our budget deliberation last week, Rep. Crispin Beltran, Rep. Ocampo and Rep. Teddy Casiño were happy to hear that there is a return of focus to food security and not rice importation," Yap said.
He added that even Congressman Salvador Escudero III, former DA secretary, supported the DA program specifically government investment in irrigation.
"When he was made the DA chief during Ramos time, the first thing he had inventoried was the status of irrigated lands. He was emphatic as well that the national rice program be based of our irrigated lands," Yap said.
Rep. Junie Cua even lamented that the amount of DA's budget is still lacking, Yap said.
The DA chief however appealed to KMP that it should not be too quick to assert any wrongdoing of the NIA without any measure or proof of irregularities.
"It's most unfair and discouraging to the thousands in NIA, including the irrigator association partners of the agency who are doing their best to complete the task at hand," he said.
Instead, Yap asked that farmers' group join the DA in a pro-active and positive partnership of identifying and monitoring the extent of repairs or changes that need too made for the sector.
NIA Administrator Tugaoen, meanwhile said that at end-August out of 55,000 hectares, NIA has already restored the irrigation to about 28,364 hectares of rice fields.
"In fact, NIA is ahead of schedule because only 48 percent has yet to be completed as of August 31 from the original target of 57 percent," Tugaoen said.
He said that NIA is willing to under go any investigation before the Congress or anybody in the interest of transparency and accountability. (PIA) [top]