July 17, 2023, 10:26 AM

NIA Central Office – The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is prepared for the impending El Niño phenomenon as NIA Field Offices nationwide already crafted their respective El Niño Action Plan. It contains different mitigating measures, such as water delivery schedule, utilization of Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) Technology, Diversification of Crops, and the use of early maturing and drought-resistant crop varieties.

Through convergence with other national government agencies (NGAs), namely, the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), other national government agencies (NGAs) involved in the agricultural sector and disaster management, Local Government Units (LGUs), Irrigators Associations (IAs), and the general public, NIA remains confident that our country can overcome all challenges that the El Niño phenomenon can bring.

Some strategies that NIA is conducting include preparatory activities, such as weekly monitoring/updating of local field conditions (dam hydrological data and dam discharge), Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activities, and adjustment of planting calendar during the wet season to prevent typhoons and early planting for the dry season in water-deficit areas. Originally, the normal cropping periods for Wet and Dry Seasons were in the months of May and November, respectively. However, in the adjusted cropping calendar, the Wet and Dry Seasons will be as early as the months of February and September, respectively.

NIA Field Offices nationwide also regularly conduct Regional Coordination Meetings and Discussions as part of the mitigating measures for El Niño. NIA also maximizes and optimizes non-vulnerable areas where production inputs will be provided to increase production and compensate for the possible damage and losses in areas at risk of the El Niño phenomenon. According to NDRRMC, up to 46 provinces could be affected. The provinces of Ilocos Norte, Bataan, and Cavite could be hit hardest. Due to this, NIA saves vulnerable areas through appropriate water management (Water Discharge and Delivery Rotation, and AWD which can save up to 30% of irrigation), provision of necessary interventions (e.g., short gestation/drought tolerant seed varieties), and conduct of cloud seeding operations, among others.

In coordination with DA, NIA is also requesting water pumps and shallow tube wells (STWs) to provide the irrigation needs of areas vulnerable to El Niño. On June 13, 2023, DA provided P18.925 million worth of agricultural interventions to IAs in the Municipality of Batac, Ilocos Norte. It also aims to improve farm production activities in the province.

The program’s beneficiaries include 94 IAs in the 1st District and 110 IAs in the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte. The distribution ceremony was led by Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Hon. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos III and 2nd District Representative Hon. Angelo Marcos Barba. Sixteen municipalities and two cities in Ilocos Norte were given farm inputs, machinery, pumps and engine sets, and other farm equipment.

On April 12, 2023, NIA Acting Administrator Engr. Eddie G. Guillen and DA Regional Executive Director Andrew Villacorta convened in NIA Central Office to discuss the clustering of IAs for the distribution of hybrid seeds and high-value crops (HVCs), as well as other DA interventions relative to the impending El Niño phenomenon. The National Rice Program and the convergence between NIA, DA, and other national government agencies (NGAs) were also discussed for the implementation of the Masagana Rice Program. The fair distribution of hybrid seeds is based on the clustered IAs and areas identified and agreed upon ng DA, NIA, and IAs. The use of hybrid seeds and HVCs is an efficient way to save water and increase farm yields and income of the farmers. Currently, NIA recorded 4,360 clustered IAs nationwide: 2,654 in Luzon, 669 in Visayas, and 1,037 in Mindanao.

Administrator Guillen also attended the Meeting on Mitigating the Effects of El Niño Phenomenon on April 24, 2023, at the Office of Civil Defense New Admin Building, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo. DND Officer-in-Charge and NDRRMC Chairperson Carlito Galvez Jr. presided over the meeting. It was attended by Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana Ople, Civil Defense Administrator and NDRRMC Executive Director Usec Ariel F Nepomuceno, and other members of NDRRMC were present in the meeting.

NIA continues to provide Filipino farmers with efficient water distribution to improve agricultural productivity and contribute to food security in the country. The Agency constantly works towards developing efficient and sustainable irrigation systems for farmers. Despite our country’s challenges due to El Niño, Administrator Guillen believes that with unity and bayanihan among all sectors of society, we can conquer it all.