Press Release
February 18, 2010

Quick response to drought
Villar bats for repairs of damaged irrigations

Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manny Villar yesterday called for the immediate repairs of damaged irrigation systems as a quick response to the dry spell now wreaking havoc on farmlands all over the country.

"Marami tayong mga sira na irrigation systems ... ang una kong gustong gawin ay makumpuni ang ating mga irrigation systems na pwedeng kumpunihin," he said in a press conference in Iloilo City, adding that the province itself was severely hit by drought.

Villar said if he becomes president, he would push for the establishment of small projects for irrigation, which he prefers over big-ticket programs in order to address the perennial problems associated with the El Niño.

"Yung malalaking projects, yung mga giant projects na inaabot ng limang taon, sampung taon sa implementasyon, palagay ko hindi na uso yan. Ang dapat gawin ngayon ay yung mabilisan, maliliit na irrigation systems para madala kaagad doon sa mga areas talaga na nangangailangan pag merong El Niño o mayroong tinatamaan ng bagyo," Villar said.

Villar said the country has a potential irrigable land area of 3.126 million hectares, but only half or 1.427 million hectares, is serviced by irrigation.

This year's P8-billion allocation for irrigation would only increase the irrigated area by 22,186 hectares, Villar said.

"At this rate, it will take the government 64 years to bring water to all of the potential areas. This drought in irrigation funds should not be allowed," Villar said.

The newly irrigated areas, if all will be planted to rice, can produce around 80,000 metric tons of palay annually, short of the 236,800 metric tons that two million Filipinos who are added to the population ever year would need, Villar said.

Ideally, the expansion in irrigation should keep pace with the increase in population "because you can't grow rice without water," Villar said, noting that it takes "5,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of rice."

Villar also pushed for the modernization of the operations of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), which would greatly help in predicting any change in weather ahead of time.

"Ang PAGASA dapat ibigay na natin yung mga equipment nila na nire-request, i-modernize natin, hindi lamang para sa El Niño kung hindi para sa mga bagyo. Dahil kailangan naman talaga considering yung mga risk sa ganitong mga bagay. Ang equipment ng PAGASA dapat ay state-of-the-art, talagang dapat mag-invest na tayo diyan," he explained.

He said he would also bat for a special fund for farmers which can be accessed with ease in times of calamities or El Niño.

"Kailangang i-assume natin na ang bagyo ay regular naman yan. Kaya meron na tayo dapat pondo na kapag tinamaan ng bagyo, halimbawa, ay ibigay na kaagad ng libre yung mga binhi at fertilizers sa ating mga farmers," he said.

Villar and his runningmate Loren Legarda and NP senatorial candidates were in Iloilo yesterday as part of their Visayas campaign leg.

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