Farmers slam fourth straight year of budget cuts in irrigation

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) underscored the consecutive budget cuts in irrigation under the current administration. “The Duterte regime has consistently defunded irrigation. How can it pronounce with a straight face that it targets significant growth in agriculture when year after year it decreases funding for something as basic as irrigation? Kahit munggo hindi tutubo kung walang tubig! Duterte and his economic managers are deluded or mad,” KMP Chairman Emeritus and Anakpawis National Chairperson Rafael Mariano says.

Numbers from past National Expenditure Programs reveal that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has suffered consecutive budget cuts in the past four years, amounting to a more than P10 billion decrease from 2018. Its proposed budget for 2022 is P200,000 less than this year.

NIA budget per year (‘000) in Billions

20182019202020212022 proposed

“The Duterte regime is undermining the Filipino peasantry at all fronts. It kills farmers who assert their right to land and life, implements a bogus land reforms program, it promotes increasing importation of food and other agricultural products, and it blocks the development of necessary irrigation systems. It disregards millions of farmers who are left vulnerable to drought, and millions more to hunger,” Mariano declares.

The former agrarian reform secretary adds that it is doubly dumbfounding that NIA began to suffer budget cuts after the enactment of the Free Irrigation Services Act (FISA) in 2018. “It was as if the government stopped bothering at developing irrigation systems after it was made unprofitable,” he comments. FISA was pioneered by the Anakpawis Partylist in Congress.

Mariano also took note of the “senseless” allocation for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC). “The proposed budget for NTF ELCAC is just P3 billion away from that of NIA’s. In what world does red tagging come anywhere close to being as important as irrigation?” 

NTF ELCAC is proposed to have a P28.1 billion budget in 2022. According to KMP, this amount can buy more than one million water pumps ranging from P15,000 to P25,000 each.

“As we face a public health crisis on top of a climate crisis, it is only sensible for the government to increase funding for irrigation which is necessary for the livelihood of millions of farmers and for the country’s food security.” 

An August 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of more extreme climate activity for the next 30 years, such as catastrophic droughts, heatwaves, rains, and floods. Philippine banana exports were slashed by around 20 percent last 2020 due to drought and wilt.

“Instead of defunding NIA again, Duterte should realign funds from the counterproductive NTF ELCAC and let much-needed irrigation waters flow into Filipino farms,” Mariano ended.

The budget deliberation for NIA is scheduled for tomorrow, September 8. #

Image from the Manila Times.

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