Solar irrigation projects to be reviewed

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Wednesday that it will review all solar-powered irrigation systems to determine the next steps in expanding solar irrigation for rice production.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr. had ordered a review following reports that some systems have either been neglected or are non-operational.

Mr. Laurel said regional executive directors will validate whether the solar systems are fully functional and draft recommendations for improving the program.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has announced a solar irrigation program to help achieve rice self-sufficiency and mitigate the impact of El Niño.

The DA has allocated P17 billion for the project and P1.2 billion for the construction and improvement of smaller-scale irrigation facilities.

The government weather service, known as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), has said that El Niño is projected to last until the second quarter, bringing dry spells or droughts to 63 provinces.

The DA is projecting that palay or unmilled rice harvest will likely be flat this year at 20 million metric tons.

The National Irrigation Administration has said that it will direct P1.72 billion to construct solar irrigation systems.

The funding will support 183 projects in the pipeline for 2024. They will eventually irrigate 2,168 hectares.

To date, more than 200 solar-powered irrigation systems have been constructed, the DA said. — Adrian H. Halili