The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) supports the planned transfer of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) from the Office of the President (OP) to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
â€œIt is very clear and logical that the NIA should fall under the DA as all of its activities are directly geared towards food, especially rice production through the provision of irrigation services. The agency’s investment priorities and program strategies need to be closely aligned and synchronized with the plans and goals of the DA, â€said Raul Montemayor, National Manager of the Federation of Free Farmers.
As recently as this week, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DoF) officially expressed their support for Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s proposal that the DA regain responsibility for NIA.
The FFF said the role of the NIA has increased in importance due to the urgent need to improve rice farmers’ productivity and profitability after the Rice Tariff Act went into effect.
It added that the design and allocation of irrigation systems must be in line with the DA’s intention to promote diversified agriculture instead of monocultures, while addressing risks from droughts, typhoons and other disasters that are expected to exacerbate due to climate change .
The FFF also warned the government against seemingly ill-conceived and inconvenient transfers of DA agencies to other departments. He also stressed the need to fully consult the relevant stakeholders before making such transfers.
For a time, the NIA was subordinate to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). During the Aquino administration, important DA authorities such as the National Food Authority (NFA), the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) were removed from DA supervision along with the NIA.
The DoF recently took over jurisdiction over the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), an agency that has been under the DA since 2002.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said he believes that by making the NIA an affiliate of the DA, both agencies can better fulfill their respective mandates and achieve better results for their mutual benefit – Filipino farmers.
For his part, Karl Kendrick Chua, Minister of Socio-Economic Planning, said that the transfer of the NIA to the DA is consistent with the priority strategy set out in Chapter 8 of the updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, in particular to strengthen the coordination of government agencies to complement the plans to ensure. Programs and projects for the development of the agricultural sector.
“NEDA agrees with the DA’s merits in ensuring greater and better complementarity to agricultural sector development interventions and activities,” continued Chua.
In 2016, Agriculture Minister Emmanuel PiÃ±ol proposed to transfer the NIA back to the DA, but his proposal fell on deaf ears amid a rift between him and the country’s Dominguez-led economic managers.
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