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Gov’t, farmers buck calls
for irrigation privatization

MANILA – Government and farmers organizations rejected the proposed privatization of irrigation services in the country, a government press release said.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he will not support any plans to privatize irrigation services as it might affect the country's food security.

He noted the DA is implementing an early planting program, so "how could private entities support this program? We need the IAs’ (Irrigation Associations) support."

National Irrigation Administration Administrator Tony Nangel, also said he  disapproved of the planned privatization, pointing out that a private corporation would have other interests.

Nangel said the most important mandate of the NIA is to come up with ways to enhance productivity of the farmers and improve the country's water services.

A national network of farmers, woman’s coalition and human rights advocates pushing for the country’s food sovereignty, in a forum commemorating the World Water Day, have urged the government to abandon the proposed privatization of irrigation services in the country.

The Task Force Food Sovereignty, instead, urged the government to increase public spending on the construction of new irrigation facilities, and rehabilitation of existing ones.

The forum, dubbed, "Water and Food Sovereignty," provided decision and policy makers, advocates and workers in the fishery and agriculture sector a venue for dialogue to discuss the problems besetting the sector and proposed alternatives towards the achievement of rice self-sufficiency and ending rural poverty.

TFFS lead convenor Arze Glipo, during the forum held Thursday in Quezon City, presented their research study, entitled, "Perilous Waters: Selected papers on the dangers of privatizing irrigation."

She lamented that in a period when the market reigns supreme, even naturally occurring and commonly held resources are privatized and turned into lucrative areas of investment.

Glipo noted that the World Bank-funded Participatory Irrigation Development Project will diminish capacity and strip the government of its essential role in the management of irrigation systems.

"Many of the institutional reforms PIDP seeks to institutionalize are irreversible and will put the country’s agricultural production and food security in peril," she warned.

Irrigation plays an important role in attaining food self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, TFFS said, current government data revealed that only 750,000 hectares out of 3.1 million hectares of potentially irrigable areas nationwide are irrigated.

"If the government really want to attain food self-sufficiency, then it should recognize that NIA provides a public good and thereby needs State's support," Glipo said.*PNA


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