Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros urged an infrastructure program for the agriculture sector as part of the government’s ‘Build-Build-Build’ program.
“Kung gusto nating maging rice self-sufficient, mamuhunan dapat tayo sa rural infrastructure bilang parte ng ‘Build-Build-Build’ program ng gobyerno,” Hontiveros said during the Commission on Appointments confirmation hearing for the appointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar.
“Investment in rural infrastructure is needed to jumpstart rural development. I hope that the leadership of Sec. Dar will bring in more support for the agriculture sector to realize its full potential,” she added.
The Akbayan senator detailed that rural facilities that help farmers such as irrigation maintenance, flood retardation infrastructure, farm-to-market roads, and food terminals have to be further developed to increase farmers’ income and productivity.
Hontiveros also backed the DA’s plan to expand its irrigation programs, saying that rice sufficiency efforts will be futile if the country’s irrigation systems are not able to secure adequate water supply for farmers.
“Kung walang patubig, matutuyot din ang kita at ang kabuhayan ng ating mga mamamayan. Government should not hesitate to pour more funding into programs which not only expand, improve, and rehabilitate our irrigation infrastructure, but also make it more resilient given the ongoing water crisis in many parts of the country,” she said.
“Kailangan din i-repair ang mga existing irrigation systems kasi natatapon ang tubig at ‘di nakaka-abot sa dulo,” the Akbayan Senator also added.
DA previously reported that 1.2 million hectares of land planted to rice are yet to be irrigated. “If these lands are irrigated, we can achieve rice sufficiency. Pwedeng umani ng dalawang beses sa isang taon. Madodoble ang ani ng ating mga magsasaka,” Hontiveros explained.
Given the shortages in water supply and the looming El Niño next year, Hontiveros said that intersectoral negotiations must be held so that the water needs of the agricultural sector, as well as everyday households and industries, are all met.
Hontiveros also agreed with Dar that government should immediately fix the problem of wastage of water in open canal systems used by farmers: “Every drop of water is important. Our water supply is already insufficient, so let us not waste what we have.”