Incoming DA chief firm on President-elect Duterte’s promise of free irrigation water for farmers

MANILA — Incoming Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol is determined to provide free irrigation water to farmers nationwide as promised by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte despite earlier statement of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) that this would adversely affect the operations of the agency.

“Anybody in government who does not share President Duterte’s vision for the Filipino farmer is free to leave and find another job,” said Pinol in a press statement on Friday.

Pinol said he was irked by the NIA official’s statement since the issue of providing free irrigation water to farmers was already discussed during his transition meeting with the heads of the NIA, National Food Authority (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA).

“In fact, I remember clearly telling NIA Administrator Wencie Padernal to come up with a strategy on how to ensure that the presidential promise is fulfilled,” he said.

“The issue of free irrigation for the Filipino farmers is a presidential commitment and it is non-negotiable. Find a way to make sure it is implemented by 2017, I remembered telling Padernal,” he added.

Pinol said that people in government who still do not know President Duterte’s character better should know that when the President-elect makes a commitment, “it is a promise which must be fulfilled and I as his alter ego in the Agriculture department will make sure that it will be realized.”

“To hear a statement from the NIA questioning that commitment is not only irritating but also a manifestation of the malady afflicting people in government — that is the failure to think outside the box to help people,” he said.

“Kung gusto, maraming paraan; Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan. There is really something wrong with the way the NIA is being managed right now,” he stressed.

Pinol lamented that there are people in government who think that they are bigger and higher than the people they are supposed to serve.

“When I was in Cagayan Valley last week, I received a complaint from Department of Agriculture Regional Director Jun Alviar that the NIA in Region 2, in spite of repeated requests from the farmers, has failed to release the water to irrigate the farms. The early release of water is very critical because of the threat of La Nina by November. It is a must that the rice farmers are able to plant by July. In my exasperation, I told Alviar to relay to the NIA director my request for him to release the water as requested by the farmers or else my first official act as Secretary of Agriculture by July 1 will be to fire him,” he noted.

“Many of its top officials may have forgotten that the reason why there is a NIA is because government would like to produce food for the Filipino people by providing irrigation,” he added.

Pinol reminded people in government and his future colleagues in the Agriculture department of their mandate “not to lord it over the people but to serve them.”

“I hope people in government now, especially those who will work with me in the Agriculture department and its attached agencies, will understand this — we are here not to lord it over the people but to serve them. If you find this hard to understand and difficult to implement, I will place a big garbage can in front of my office on July 1. You could throw in your resignation letters in that trash can and leave government,” he said. PNA/