Press solons on irrigation — DA

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Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol yesterday offered a suggestion to farmers who want to increase their yields but can’t do so because there is no irrigation system in their area: ask their representatives in Congress to provide additional funding support for Solar-Powered Irrigation System (SPIS).

“For farmers who have areas which they believe are suitable to Solar-Powered Irrigation System, we ask them to help us get funding for the project by talking to their congressmen and asking them to lobby for the allocation of funds for the SPIS program of the DA (Department of Agriculture),” Piñol said.

From over 100 units in 2017 and 2018, our budget for the SPIS in 2019 will only allow us to build 11 units.

According to Piñol, lobbying for funding support from the lawmakers is necessary as many budget planners still do not appreciate the impact of the SPIS on greater agricultural productivity.

“From over 100 units in 2017 and 2018, our budget for the SPIS in 2019 will only allow us to build 11 units,” Piñol lamented.

The SPIS program was introduced by the DA in a bid to provide irrigation water to practically all types of farmlands in the country. It was launched by President Rody Duterte in March 2017.

Currently, 169 SPIS units are being constructed all over the country.

“Each unit could irrigate up to 100 hectares, depending on the source of water and farmers won’t have to pay for costly diesel fuel needed by conventional water pumps,” Piñol said.

Using solar panels to power water pumps, SPIS could draw water from deep rivers, creeks, water impounding and even wells.

The system is also touted as ideal for use during dry season planting, including in periods of drought when even the regular Irrigation systems of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) could not provide water.

Unlike the regular NIA irrigation system where water supply is interrupted whenever maintenance work is conducted on the dikes and canals, the SPIS system is less prone to disruption of service since the water is distributed through plastic pipes.

Likewise, Piñol stressed that SPIS cost less compared to conventional water systems since the development cost per hectare is only about P120,000 compared to about P450,000 in the NIA systems.

“With SPIS, fertilization and even the application of herbicides could now be done by simply mixing the fertilizer or herbicides in the water kept in the reservoir thus adding to farm efficiency,” Piñol said.

In August this year, Piñol claimed President Duterte had agreed to allocate at least P43.7 billion for the construction of around 6,250 SPIS until the end of his term. An SPIS unit costs about P7 million, according to Piñol.

Piñol said he informed the President that about 169 SPIS units have been completed or undergoing construction this year, but the implementation of the program could be delayed due to budget cuts.

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