MANILA — Only a small fraction of 160 billion cubic meters of rainwater are harvested for useful purposes, said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Monday as he proposed that more water impounding systems be built.
“In terms of actual volume of water that can be utilized, both (rainwater and traditional water systems) can be a source of irrigation, flood control management, and power. In our 160 billion cubic meters of rainfall annually, we only harvest 30 billion,” Pangilinan said.
The senator made the recommendation during the Senate committee hearing on the proposed 2017 budget of the four agricultural agencies under the Office of the President: National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), and Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA).
Pangilinan sought for comparative data on rainwater harvest for irrigation versus traditional irrigation systems. He is set to file the Water Impoundment Act of 2016, which aims to provide more water systems apart from existing traditional irrigation.
“We need to know how much volume of water is utilized for agriculture per specific sets. Maybe we can see if impoundment should be, instead, the priority of the NIA since it’s cheaper,” he said.
On the issue of free irrigation, Administrator Florencio Padernal said NIA supports the call for free irrigation, if the following two conditions are met: a covering legislation and the appropriate budsget.
“We are willing to have the bill heard. We were informed that the economic team may have a different view. A hearing would provide for the needed figures that could account for what must be done,” Pangilinan said.
Irrigation service fees are used to pay the maintenance of national irrigation systems. The actual cost of irrigation maintenance vary nationwide.
The Senate Committee on Finance committed to provide an additional P2 billion in the NIA budget to cover said irrigation maintenance fees.
HIGHER INCOME FOR COCO FARMERS?
At the same budget hearing, PCA Administrator Glenn Santos said the average income of coconut farmers is now P49,000.
But when Pangilinan asked how the PCA came up with the figure showing a 100% increase from P15,000 in 2014, the PCA clarified that the figure only pertains to the 55,000 farmers covered by 799 KAANIB nationwide.
“This figure should not be used to refer to the average income of our 3.5 million farmers. However, this proves that the mechanism of Kaanib works. The challenge now is how to also increase the income of those outside of the current 55,000 earning up to P49,000. That must be the priority in all of our programs,” Pangilinan said.
The KAANIB Coconut Agro-Industrial Hub was conceptualized as a strategic partnership that links Kaanib and small enterprises, cooperatives, and organizations to central business units that serves as the secondary processor of coconut products into value-added products. These business units also help integrate the products into the market, and to provide information and technology to the coconut farmers.
“I don’t think we can achieve [increased farmers’ incomes] with government funding alone. We should also explore securing funding from the private sector. There must be synergy,” Pangilinan said.