‘Long way to go to develop irrigable areas’
By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---With only 59 percent of the irrigable areas developed since the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) was established in 1963, it is a long way to go, according to the top official of the agency. “With 41 percent of the total irrigable areas of 3.2 million ha all over the country still to be developed, it will be a long, long way to go,” Administrator Ricardo Visaya said. Visaya said they wanted to fast-track the irrigation development but the funds are limited. “We were asking for P56 billion budget but there are so many unexpected things that happened and we cannot complain. So, our budget was increased to only P2 billion,” he said. Visaya said the irrigation development does not even reach 2 percent accomplishment. “We long that the funds for NIA be increased so that we could achieve rice sufficiency within 10 years,” he said. Visaya said if the NIA could irrigate 85 percent of the total irrigable areas in the country, the Philippines will stop importing rice. He said last year the budget given to NIA was P38 billion and this year they were given P40.8 billion. Visaya said with the given budget he is confident they could achieve 2 percent accomplishment. In Bicol region the total irrigable areas comprise of 239,440 ha and the total developed irrigation facilities cover 138,723 ha or 57 percent. About 100,716 ha are still needed to be irrigated to fully develop the rice industry in the region.