The National Irrigation Administration (NIA)’s Equipment Refleeting Program kicked into high gear Wednesday, December 13, with the distribution of P776 million worth of excavators to various irrigators’ associations (IA) in the country during turn-over rites at the Naval Supply Depot (NSD) Compound in Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City.

The NIA, an attached corporation of the Department of Agriculture (DA), procured 141 units of excavators under the first tranche, specifically: 102 units of 0.5 cubic excavators, 17 units of 1 cubic excavators, 17 units of long arm excavators, and 5 units of amphibious excavators.

“Ang mga ito po ay gagamitin ng ating irrigators’ associations para sa desilting ng kanilang canals, para sa pag-repair ng kanilang irrigation, para po ito ay lalong makatulong sa pagpapaunlad ng ating food security,” DA-NIA Acting Administrator Engr. Eduardo Eddie Guillen said.

NIA Region I Acting Regional Manager Engr. Danilo Gomez, NIA Region VIII Regional Manager Engr. Jaime De Jesus, and NIA Region XI Regional Manager Engr. Jimmy Apostol– representing IAs from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, respectively– received the excavators. A simultaneous event led by IA-recipients were also held in Cebu City and Davao City.

Aside from augmenting the country’s inventory of machines and resources, the three-year program also aims to undertake and intensify regular operation and maintenance of national irrigation systems (NIS). The program also aims to immediately repair and/or construct irrigation facilities damaged by natural disasters.

With a total budget of P2.59 billion, the Equipment Refleeting Program is divided into three tranches.

For the implementation of the second tranche, more than P782 million was dedicated to the purchase of 138 units of excavators of various models, 28 units of dump trucks, and 17 units of truck-tractors with trailer. Meanwhile, the third and final tranche will entail the procurement of various types of heavy equipment with a funding of over P1.03 billion.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said effective irrigation systems can boost local agricultural production by 30 percent. The 141 units of NIA-procured excavators will also improve the country’s 257 NIS and 10,144 communal irrigation, further increase productivity and profitability of local farmers nationwide.

“[The Equipment Refleeting Program] reflects our continuing commitment to develop and utilize our land to the fullest—a commitment that we embrace and take very seriously. To ensure productive and efficient use of our agricultural land, it is imperative for us to continue restoring and maintaining our irrigation systems,” the President said.

Taking on a whole-of-nation approach, President Marcos Jr. also urged various government agencies— specifically DA, the NIA, Department of National Defense, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources— to accelerate construction of irrigation facilities and ensure continuous water supply, especially with the forecasted El Niño phenomenon by the first quarter of 2024.

The President said: “Rest assured that we will continue to explore all possibilities for the continuous distribution of water to ensure that our lands remain fertile and productive. Let us continue to unite and work together. Let us develop, modernize, and improve our agriculture sector so we can achieve a food-secure and prosperous future for all Filipinos.”

Also gracing the turn-over ceremony were DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Jonathan Tan, and members of the private sector. ### (Krystelle Ymari A. Vergara, DA-AFID)