The ambitious solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) of former Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol is finally coming to fruition, with Mindanao’s first set of SPIS now up for commissioning.
Piñol, who is now the chairperson of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said the first local government-funded SPIS in Mindanao, which is located in the town of Taraka, Lanao del Sur, will be commissioned on August 10, 2021, while three of its seven units will be operational by the end of July.
The SPIS will be able to irrigate 700 hectares of land, while a portion of it will be used to produce filtered and safe drinking water for 25,000 residents in the province.
Part of the Mindanao Water Supply Program of MinDA, the solar-powered water system is scheduled to be completed by December this year, according to Taraka Mayor Nashiba Sumagayan.
According to Piñol, Sumagayan is the first Mindanao local executive to enroll in MinDAWater, which is a project spearheaded by MinDA with the support of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
The project aims to help Local Government Units (LGUs) in Mindanao establish sources of water for drinking and agriculture.
It was in 2017 when Piñol, who was then the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), first brought up the idea of constructing SPIS across the nation. He said this will help the country attain 100 percent rice self-sufficiency.
The problem is that when DA sought to initially allocate P20 billion for the project out of its proposed annual budget for 2019, it was not granted by Congress.
In 2019, the DA was only given funds enough to build 11 units of SPIS, which is about P77 million. This was despite Piñol claiming that he already received the assurance of President Rodrigo Duterte that the project will get its needed funds.
Each SPIS unit, which has a capacity to irrigate 80 hectares, would cost around P7 million to set up, based on Piñol’s earlier computation.
When Agriculture Secretary William Dar took over DA in 2019, he said he is open to pursuing the SPIS project as well as the deal that Piñol was trying to secure with the government of Israel when it comes to the construction of the SPIS nationwide.
As for the Taraka SPIS, it was funded through a loan obtained from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
Piñol said the cost of the project would be recovered by the LGU through the operation of the Municipal Economic Enterprise Development Office (MEEDO), which is being established with technical support from MinDA.
Under the MEEDO, farmers and residents who will tap from the SPIS will be charged with service fees, which in turn will be used by the LGU to repay the cost of the facilities.
Taraka, one of the old towns of Lanao del Sur in the Basak Region of the province beside the 34,000-hectare Lake Lanao, has been identified by MinDA as its model for rural development.
MinDA aims to establish the Taraka SPIS model in all provinces of Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro Region.