NIA continuously provides capacity-building training to irrigators' associations (IAs) in Palawan, which they believe will help them strengthen for devolution. (PN File)

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Palawan said the devolution of communal irrigation systems (CIS) to local government units (LGUs) starting in 2022 will help the agency focus on irrigating areas of one thousand hectares or above in Palawan.

Glenda Buenavista, senior irrigators development officer, explained that the devolution of CIS, under Executive Order 138 signed this year mandates a three-year transition that will start in 2022 until 2024 when the 97 existing CIS in the province will be devolved to LGU.

“Ang devolution ay nakatuon lang sa ating communal irrigation systems, si NIA— lahat ng maiiwan sa NIA ay ‘yong mga national irrigation systems. Tinitingnan din namin kasi meron tayo on-going na Ibato-Iraan small reservoir project, maiiwan siya sa NIA dahil hindi siya pwede i-devolve sa LGU dahil ang completion ng reservoir ay highly technical,” Buenavista said.

The CIS are small-scale schemes and are constructed with the participation of farmer-beneficiaries through irrigators’ associations (IAs). NIA explained that the operation and maintenance of CIS will be turned over to IAs upon project completion, subject to a cost recovery arrangement.

Palawan has two existing National Irrigation System (NIS) projects, or those large and medium irrigation projects, the Malatgao and Batang-Batang irrigations in Narra town. According to the feasibility study, NIA is also looking for two additional NIS in Rizal town, the Malabangan and Ransang, both with 2,000-hectare potential for development in 2023.

But even after the transfer of CIS to LGUs, NIA will still assist, particularly with technical expertise, in the span of a three-year transition.

“Ang maliliit na irrigation systems ay itu-turn over na sa local government units para sa kanilang management and the same time, construction na rin. Halimbawa may isang bagong irrigation system sa isang munisipyo, halimbawa sa Taytay may 100 hectares lang—si LGU na ang gagawa noon,” Buenavista explained.

Buenavista also stated that the country will start implementing the Mandanas ruling in 2022, which will increase the percentage of the local government’s share of the national government tax revenue.

“Hindi siya katulad noong nasa NIA pa na kami ang mismo ang magri-request kay DBM para pondohan ang irrigation system. Ang mangyayari sa devolution, kung si LGU na ang magha-handle ng communal irrigation system, sila na ang magpopondo ng construction, repair galing sa sarili nilang IRA,” she said.

Palawan Irrigation Management Office (PIMO) division manager Engr. Conrado Cardenas, Jr. also said that it will not change the load of NIA as they will focus on larger areas to be developed for irrigation projects. He stressed that farmers have nothing to worry about in the devolution of the CIS.

“Parang pabor pa sa amin kasi mas maka-concentrate kami sa 1,000 hectares and above,” he said.

“Ang role ng NIA ay nandiyan pa rin. Tuloy-tuloy kami kasi ang percentage ng ating irrigation development ay nasa 49 percent pa lang, malaki pa ang area na hahabulin pa,” he added.

NIA continuously provides capacity-building training to irrigators’ associations (IAs) in Palawan, which they believe will help them strengthen for devolution. It will also provide the same training to LGUs to handle the irrigation systems once they are turned over to their management starting in 2022.

“I-a-assist namin sila, i-guide namin sila kaya may tatlong phase ito hanggang makapag-solo sila, nandiyan ang NIA. Pagdating sa technical, institutional, sa sustenance ng farmers’ organizations,” Cardenas said.

Buenavista said NIA is taking into consideration some of the LGU requests to not devolve all of CIS at one time during the first year of the transition in 2022.

“May mga local government na nagsasabi na hindi ganoon kalaki yong magiging share nila sa Mandanas compared sa responsibility nila na itu-turn over sa devolution. Pero since ito ay executive order, iko-comply nila,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Ibato-Iraan Small Reservoir Irrigation Project (SRIP) in Sagpangan, Aborlan is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023.

The remaining construction of the project, worth P322,832,438.17, resumed construction under a new contractor, Green Asia Construction and Development Corporation.

The Ibato-Iraan SRIP has a total allocation of P780-million, of which P454 million was awarded to the previous contractor, Oscar R. Sarmiento Construction Inc. (ORSCI) in 2014.

The contract was terminated with ORSCI due to delays and failure to meet the required standards in the construction of a zoned earth-fill dam, canal, and road networks, which is expected to increase agricultural productivity for an estimated 425 farmers.