No irrigation deal yet with Israeli firm – NIA

Published March 1, 2021, 5:30 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Israeli-based firm LR Group is yet to seal a deal with the Philippine government three years after it was supposedly tapped to develop a solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) in the country.

National Irrigation Administration (MANILA BULLETIN)

In a statement, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said the negotiation with LR Group for the setting up of Solar Powered Fertigation System (SPFS) in different areas in the country is continuous.

For his part, Ilan Weiss of LR Group said “when we proceed to the bigger G2G [Government to Government] project, just to mention that it would include training and scholarships for people from NIA to farmers and others.”

During the 2018 Israel state visit of President Rodrigo Duterte, Israeli and Philippine governments, through their relevant departments and agencies, entered into an Implementation Agreement (IA) for the project.

As part of the IA, the LR Group designed SPFS technology systems that are optimized for any location in the Philippines and can deliver water and fertilizers for any type of crop.

LR’s system is likewise designed to increase crop yields while significantly cutting farmers’ costs. 

SPFS technology enables the implementation of easy to install, “out of the box”, cost-effective, integrated irrigation and fertigation systems, NIA said. 

The pursuit for solar-powered irrigation is part of the undertaking of NIA towards modernization and innovation, which is aligned with the agency’s 10-year National Irrigation Master Plan.

The massive SPIS project of the Philippine government, in general, aims to provide water to at least 500,000 hectares of farms over the remaining years of the Duterte administration.

Such a plan was first announced by former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in 2018, but it faced financial setbacks when he failed to get his desired budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA) in 2019, which would have been partly allotted to this venture.

Piñol, who now chairs the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), also failed to get the country’s economic managers approval to proceed with a P44-billion loan that Innovative Agro Industry Ltd. (IAI), an affiliate of LR Group, was initially offering for this project. 

Upon taking over the DA, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in 2019 that he wanted to close a better funding deal for this massive irrigation project.

NIA is a government-owned and controlled corporation, but it coordinates with the DA for the establishment of irrigation facilities across the country.