By Mario Casayuran
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto on Wednesday said it would take almost 50 years to bring water to all of the country’s 1.3 million hectares of ‘’irrigable land’’ at the rate government is spending for irrigation.
Recto made this point following the Senate’s approval of his measure, Senate Bill 1465, waiving irrigation fees for small farmers.
‘’The bigger challenge is not in exempting farmers from paying for farm water, it is in building more dams and canals that will bring water to them,’’ he said.
“But this is not to diminish the importance of this landmark social legislation. What we’re saying is that hopefully the era of free irrigation will spur government to fund more irrigation projects,’’ he added.
Of the three million hectares of irrigable land throughout the archipelago, only 1.7 million are irrigated, leaving a backlog of 1.3 million hectares.
“That is, however, on paper, but in reality, many irrigation systems are in need of repair,” Recto said.
For example, of the 836,000 hectares in the reported service inventory of the NIA, only about 568,000 hectares were regularly reached by water in 2015.
Of the 638,000 covered community irrigation systems, only about half were regularly served.
Aggravating the low irrigation density is the slow pace of expansion, he added. “We’re bringing water to farms at glacial pace.”
For 2017, the NIA has a budget of P38.4 billion.
This will be spent to build new systems that will cover 29,000 hectares of unirrigated lands and restore or repair irrigation works in 18,000 hectares served at present by the NIA.
At this rate of appropriations, it will take us about 45 years to irrigate 1.3 million hectares, Recto pointed out.
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