NIA chief bares improved service in Albay
By Celso Amo LEGAZPI CITY --- The National Irrigation Administration(NIA) has organized a stakeholders’ forum on Friday to fast-track and to protect irrigation infrastructure projects in Albay in anticipation of President Duterte’s declaration of the New People’s Army(NPA) as a terrorist organization. “Once the NPA is declared as a terrorist organization it will intensify its offensives by attacking soft or non-military targets such as our NIA projects,” said Visaya during a stakeholder’s forum at Hotel St. Ellis here. “We will take some action like this forum so we will be prepared,” he added. He also said there was no report of NPA attacks or harassment of irrigation facilities in Albay. The purpose of the forum is to “bind ourselves and our offices and organization to give all-out support to the NIA to ensure faster and better implementation of its various irrigation projects and provision of sustainable and reliable irrigation service in the province of Albay.” “We commit ourselves to provide NIA with valuable recommendations and timely and truthful feedbacks in line with the comprehensive irrigation development program of the province of Albay.” Visaya blames slow growth of the countryside to the communist insurgency which discourages small business due to extortion or revolutionary taxation. Engr. Cristeta Mesias, NIA action manager for Albay and Catanduanes, said there are 13 small irrigation projects (SIP), as well as ongoing repair of 23 existing irrigation systems, expansion of existing irrigation system, slope protection work , improvement of existing service and climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in Albay. Total funding for these projects reached P325.838M. She said the first district of Albay comprising Bacacay, Malilipot, Malinao, Sto. Domingo, Tabaco City and Tiwi has a total of 52.33 percent level of irrigation development with 16,164.00 hectares as potential irrigation areas and 7,705 hectares as remaining areas to be irrigated. NIA-assisted communal irrigation system comprises 1,894 hectares and pump irrigation facilities cover 48 hectares; private irrigation system has 2,663 hectares and other government agencies irrigation system covers 785 hectares. Total service irrigated area has been placed at 5,390 hectares. In the second district comprising the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Manito, Rapu-Rapu and Legazpi City there are still 11,225 hectares which are potential irrigation areas while the level of irrigation development is 48.02 percent and the remaining area to be irrigated is 5,835 hectares. NIA assisted communal irrigation system is 1,894 hectares and pump irrigation facilities is 48 hectares; private irrigation system using gravitiy is 2,663 hectares and other government agency irrigation facilities using gravity is 785 hectares. Total service irrigated area is 5,390 hectares. In the third district comprising the towns of Guinobatan, Jovellar, Pio Duran, Oas, Polangui, Libon and the Ligao City, the total potential irrigation area is 27,231 hectares while the level of irrigation development is 60.86 percent and the remaining area to be irrigated is 10,658 hectares. NIA assisted national irrigation system is 3,608 hectares, NIA communal irrigation system is 5,971 hectares while pump irrigation is 466 hectares; private irrigation system by gravity is 4,694 hectares while pump is 386 hectares; other government agency irrigation system by gravity is 1,052 hectares and by pump 396 hectares. Total irrigated service areas is 16,573 hectares. “Ninety percent of irrigation projects nationwide are delayed due to corruption, problem with contractor, and security problems,” Visaya, the former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, disclosed. We have already solved our problem with the contractors’ delayed payments and the security problem has been addressed with a MOA between the contractors and the Armed Forces where the project is located and eradicating graft and corruption by improving the systems, increasing the salaries and replacing outmoded equipment at NIA. “Our MOA with the Armed Forces is to implement its mandate to secure government projects,” Visaya added. He also urged the leaders of irrigation facilities not pay revolutionary tax to the NPAs. He said private contractors of NIA projects are assured of security protection from the AFP in their area of operation. “Past NIA projects were also delayed because NIA insiders select the contractors-- lessening the number of contractors to help NIA implement the projects,” said Visaya who vowed to stop graft and corruption inside the agency after he was appointed by President Duterte. He recalled what President Duterte told him:” Just do what is right and what is legal.” He said transparency at the NIA was achieved through open bidding and getting rid of grid biddings. “You know I’m allergic to delays,” Visaya said as he warned local officials, especially barangay captains, that he will file cases for violation of RA 3019 to those who delay NIA infrastructure project implementation. He also wants to tap irrigation facilities to provide electricity as well as lessen the cost of electricity in the countryside. “There are 500 dams in the country and we have 357 dams which are potential for hydro power,” Visaya added. He said “we can optimize the dams not just for irrigation as well as for water and as source of electricity through hydro-power. Some 150 participated during the stakeholders’ forum held at St. Ellis Hotel here including Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, Tiwi Mayor Jaime Villanueva, AKB Reps. Pido Garbin, Jr. and Christopher Co, as well as hundreds of irrigators’ association heads in the province. The participants signed a covenant of support for faster and better implementation of irrigation projects and sustainable and reliable irrigation services in Albay province.