The Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) supports the proposed transfer of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) from the Office of the President (OP) to the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“It is very clear and logical that NIA should be under the DA, since all its activities are directly aimed at food, especially rice production through the provision of irrigation services. The agency’s investment priorities and program strategies must be closely aligned and synchronized with the DA’s plans and targets,” said Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Montemayor.
It was just this week when the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DoF) formally expressed their support to the proposal of Agriculture Secretary William Dar for DA to take back the jurisdiction over NIA.
The FFF said that NIA’s role has become more critical due to the urgent need to improve the productivity and profitability of rice farmers following the enactment of the Rice Tariffication Law.
It added that the design and allocation of irrigation facilities must jibe with the DA’s intention to promote diversified instead of mono-crop farming, while also addressing risks from droughts, typhoons and other calamities that are expected to intensify because of climate change.
The FFF also cautioned the government from seemingly ill-conceived and ill-timed transfers of DA agencies to other departments. It also emphasized the need to fully consult affected stakeholders before such transfers are made.
For a while, the NIA was placed under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). During the Aquino administration, key DA agencies such as the National Food Authority (NFA), the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) were removed from DA supervision together with the NIA.
Recently, the DoF assumed jurisdiction over the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), an agency which had been under the DA since 2002.
In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that by making NIA an attached agency of the DA, he believes that both agencies will be better able to fulfill their respective mandates and deliver better outcomes for their shared benefit —the Filipino farmers.
For his part, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said transferring the NIA to DA is consistent with the priority strategy under Chapter 8 of the Updated Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, particularly on strengthening the coordination of government agencies to ensure the complementation of plans, programs and projects to develop the agriculture sector.
“NEDA agrees with the merits raised by the DA to ensure stronger and better complementation of interventions and activities to develop the agriculture sector,” Chua further said.
In 2016, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol already proposed for NIA to be transferred back to DA, but his proposal has fallen on deaf ears amid a rift between him and the country’s economic managers, which is led by Dominguez.