DA attracts 2 more foreign groups for irrigation funding

Published May 2, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Madelaine B. Miraflor

Two more foreign groups have signified interest to provide the Department of Agriculture (DA) billions of funding for the country’s massive irrigation plan, and are willing to challenge the unsolicited proposal earlier made by an Israeli group.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said a Chinese company based in Abu Dhabi as well as an American group — names of which are yet to be disclosed — have both expressed their interest to bankroll the soon-to-be-released National Irrigation Master Plan, which involves the development of 8,000 units of Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS).

The new proposals that would come from these investors should challenge the unsolicited offer earlier made by an Israeli agriculture company, which will soon be endorsed to the National Economic and Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee (NEDA-ICC).

It was in February when Piñol first announced that Innovative Agro Industry Ltd. (IAI), an affiliate of LR Group, a leading project development company in Israel, has offered to fund and develop the SPIS units that the Philippines need.

Under its unsolicited proposal, IAI is willing to provide the technology as well as funding that is enough to build as much as 8,000 units of SPIS in the country.

To build this much SPIS, a huge funding requirement of about P44 billion is needed, something that the Israeli firm could provide, IAI Chairman and Executive Director Ilan Weiss earlier told Piñol.

The agriculture chief said the loan will be payable in 10 years with two year grace period.

Piñol said that IAI’s loan proposal, which was backed by the Israeli government, would now be a subject to a Swiss Challenge since there’s two more companies interested to propose a project of the same nature and size.

“I just received a communication from an Abu Dhabi-based China group. They will call on the DA [Department of Agriculture] Secretary next week about their proposal. And then earlier, an American group also expressed its intention to undertake similar projects,” Piñol said.

“There is enough room for all interested groups,” he added.

But right now, since no final offer has been made yet from the two additional proponents, the DA will still proceed on its presentation of IAI’s proposal to the NEDA-ICC.

To pave the way for it, a nationwide irrigation plan — which should guide the DA how to utilize the P44-billion loan it is set to tap from IAI — is now being drafted and should soon be released.

Piñol said his agency is targeting to finish the final copy of the Philippines’ National Irrigation Master Plan next week.

NEDA-ICC, which is a cluster of government agencies in the country, evaluates the fiscal and monetary implications of the country’s major national projects. The projects it approves go through the NEDA Board, chaired by the President, for the final approval.

Tomorrow, the inter-agency group, composed of officials from DA, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, National Economic and Development Authority, National Irrigation Administration and Bureau of Soils and Water Management, will convene to prepare the National Irrigation Master Plan.

The master plan should identify a strategy on how to provide irrigation to 500,000 hectares of farm in the country.

Piñol said the amount of investments needed for this project may be considered huge “but it pales in comparison to the P130 billion the government doles out under the Conditional Cash Transfer Program or 4Ps”.