An integrated irrigation development plan is crucial in capitalizing the long term benefits of the country’s irrigation system to ensure an increase in farm productivity and boost socioeconomic progress, state-run think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies said in its latest book titled “Revitalizing Philippine Irrigation”.
As PIDS pushed for an integrated irrigation development plan that should be a master plan at all levels – macro, meso and micro, it rued that the current decision-making in the sector that involves institutions not necessarily linked to each other, is fragmented at the various phases of the irrigation cycle.
There are currently three government entities concerned with irrigation governance – the National Irrigation Administration, the Department of Agriculture–Bureau of Soils and Water Management, and local government units.
“These institutions plan and implement irrigation projects, and therefore no integrated irrigation plan is being followed. This results in double counting of areas and even of beneficiaries. Activities are also disjointed due to many plans,” PIDS said.
Government has been accelerating the development of irrigation systems nationwide in a bid to cover some 1.3 million hectares of irrigable land. But because the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act gives LGUs the mandate to manage communal irrigation systems, this is not exactly happening. Low priority for irrigation concerns, limited funds for project implementation, and lack of capabilities and personnel hamper this planed acceleration.
PIDS emphasized that, at the macro level, the NIA should lead the integrated and rolling irrigation master development plan. This should then be harmonized with the river basin plans of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at meso level with LGU plans at the micro level.
If our country were serious about embarking on a golden age of agriculture, it should’ve started with an integrated irrigation master development plan. However, with the current administration’s term about to finish and agriculture declining instead of growing, Filipinos may have to wait for a new set of leaders that can actually deliver on promises before putting their hope on basic programs, such as irrigation to uplift the lives of those affected.*