The Duterte administration should give priority to agricultural infrastructure in its ambitious “Build-Build-Build” program, because this will provide long-term solutions to national food security.
“This is critical for our food security,” Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon said on Monday.
“In the Philippines, why is there rice shortage? Because we don’t have sufficient production,” he said.
He added, “Why is the production side not enough? Simply because we lack the critical ingredient to agricultural productivity, which is agricultural infrastructure that can support our farmers.”
Drilon lamented that the agriculture sector was not a priority under the government’s multi-billion Build-Build-Build program.
“While the construction of roads and bridges is good and which is something I support, I think this huge infrastructure undertaking should have taken into consideration the state of our agricultural infrastructure,” Drilon said.
If you look at rice exporting countries, they have critical ingredient in their agricultural production, particularly irrigation, citing Vietnam’s Mekong River,” he said.
He deplored that in the Philippines, irrigation projects would “take decades” to be fully implemented.
He cited the construction of the P11.2-billion Jalaur River Multi-purpose Project Phase II (JRMP II), which took 58 years before its second phase is funded, and the Halog Dam in Ilocos Norte, which was stalled for 30 years.
“All these derailed infrastructure are vital for our farmers and in our bid to enhance agriculture productivity,” Drilon said.
“The government should prioritize their construction in order that we can achieve rice self-sufficiency and help our farmers become more productive,” he said.
Drilon said the JRMP II will enhance agricultural productivity and prevent shortages of agricultural products, particularly rice, in the future.
The project is expected to contribute to the country’s rice production target of 7.6%, as it will increase annual production of rice to 300,000 metric tons from 140,000 in Iloilo.
The project will provide year-round irrigation to 31,840 hectares of farm lots in the province.
It was Drilon who initiated the project in April 2011 when he met with the Korean government for the funding requirement.
The Korean government through its Export-Import Bank’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund extended P8.95-billion as official development assistance. The government counterpart fund is P2.2 billion.
“The interest rate for the Jalaur project is the lowest the country can get at 0.15 percent compared to loans being offered by China, which is roughly at 2.3 to 3 percent,” Drilon said.
JRMP II includes the construction of 109-meter Jalaur high dam, 38.5-meter afterbay dam, 10-meter Alibunan catch dam, 80.74-kilometer high line canal; generation of new areas for irrigation; and rehabilitation of existing irrigation system.