Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Probing the P121-B unfinished irrigation projects

May 20, 2023, 10:10 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


The Senate’s probe into some P121 billion worth of unfinished irrigation projects must be done in earnest, as the farmers are at the losing end of the rope, not to mention taxpayers who had to forcibly shell out taxes that they expected would be used for worthwhile endeavors that would benefit them as well but did not.

Just when El Nino is coming—if it hasn’t yet come—we would be having problems with water supply for the farms that should have been stored in huge irrigation dams, that up to this day have been dammed into the pockets of evil and greedy people.

Senators are now opening a full-blown inquiry into these alleged unfinished projects, and other anomalies too worth P121 billion in the past five years, for which taxpayers are constantly being gypped of their precious moneys that they could have used for home essentials, the education of their children and even to save for the rainy days.

Senators weighed in on the issue after Sen. Raffy Tulfo exposed in his privileged speech the multi-billion projects of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) that were cornered by alleged favored contractors.

These contractors, which shortchanged the government by not finishing the projects, were even blacklisted by NIA earlier but somehow got the projects from the government.

From 2017 until 2022, the NIA released a total of P121 billion for anomalous unfinished projects, Tulfo reported, as he urged the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate this “long-standing” corruption at the NIA.

“I agree that by effectively implementing a national irrigation program, we can guarantee better food security for our country,” Tulfo said and to which I agree.

The senator said he would not mind having government spend billions for irrigation, if such would boost food security and help farmers but not to be wasted in the pockets of just a few greedy vultures.

Majority Leader Joel Villanueva cited NIA’s lack of capacity to spend allocated funds worth billions of pesos for irrigation projects that are supposed to help farmers nationwide. He recalled pushing several years exempting farmers from paying irrigation fees to boost their productivity and income.

“I think it is fair to ask: What is NIA’s current status on our country’s irrigation development as promised by Republic Act (RA) 10969 (Free Irrigation Service Act), and at the same time to answer issues of accountability and transparency,” he said.

Sen. Villanueva referred to the recent PAGASA forecasts that El Niño, a seasonal abnormal weather pattern that causes droughts in the country, is likely to turn up as early as June this year, and may last up to the first quarter of next year.

“We have time constraints. We want to be sure that funds are used properly and wisely,” Villanueva said stressing that most of all, “we want our citizens in the agricultural sector to benefit from it.”

Senate Minority Leader “Koko” Pimentel III backed Tulfo’s call to use the budget process to hold accountable various government agencies, particularly the NIA. He asked the NIA to prepare to answer questions from senators come the budget process.

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