PPA exec named new NIA administrator
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - July 5, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang announced yesterday the appointment of Philippine Ports Authority assistant general manager Claro Maranan as the new administrator of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), replacing Antonio Nangel whom President Aquino recently berated during the agency’s anniversary.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda furnished Palace reporters a copy of Maranan’s appointment, signed by Aquino, who also endorsed the appointment to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, whose department supervises NIA.

As per the transmission letters sent by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to the Department of Agriculture, Maranan’s term of office started July 1, 2013 and will end on June 30 next year.

Maranan was also designated member of NIA’s board of directors.

Prior to being PPA assistant general manager in 2005, the 54-year-old Maranan, a civil engineer, served as acting manager of PPA’s engineering services division from August 2003 to January 2005.

The new NIA chief got his engineering degree from the Luzonian University Foundation in Lucena City and obtained his masters in public administration from the Lyceum of the Philippines in 1977.

Aquino scolded the former NIA chief during the recent 50th anniversary celebration of the agency, whose target along with the DA is rice self-sufficiency and eventual export of the staple.

Aquino also dismissed as unacceptable excuses for what he deemed was questionable fund misuse, where NIA spent all of its allocations but still fell short on its targets.

Aquino said he could not understand why NIA never met its target to irrigate new areas of farmlands when they had been getting 100 percent of their allocation from the national budget every year.

He has ordered an investigation into how NIA funds were disbursed and where it went, hinting that government funds allotted to them apparently went elsewhere, and not to the intended projects.

Asked if he had plans to fire the NIA chief after being unhappy with his performance, Aquino said: “Unless I would suffer from amnesia from now until later, I have no plans to renew (Nangel’s appointment).”

Aquino noted the report of the Department of Budget and Management covering about 23 years, which showed the budget allocated for NIA had all been obligated and disbursed. If this was the case, Aquino said NIA must be able to justify where it spent the money up to the last centavo.

Non-government organization Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) is urging the government to conduct a deeper investigation on NIA operations and to file charges against officials responsible for the agency’s poor performance.

R1 said in a statement that based on its research, President Aquino has made a big investment on irrigation since his assumption to power in 2010.

“While we are happy with the significant amount of government resources spent on irrigation, we have to make sure the people’s money will not be squandered and the long dream of achieving rice self-sufficiency will be attained,” said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, co-convenor of R1.

Balog-Balog Dam dilemma

President Aquino reportedly got angry with Nangel because of the long delayed dam project to improve irrigation in Tarlac that was initiated during the term of the late President Corazon Aquino.

The construction of Phase 1 of the Balog-Balog Multi Purpose Dam (BBMP) was started during the administration of the incumbent President’s mother, according to officials of NIA-Tarlac who held a press conference here last Tuesday.

Balog-Balog is the name of the river located in the uplands of Barangay Maamot in San Jose, Tarlac.

President Aquino had ordered an investigation into the use of NIA funds after the agency failed to meet its targets for the past years to expand irrigated agricultural land area.

“I think the President was misinformed that nothing is moving in the BBMP. With a little savings of P60 million in 2012 we were able to do much as what was expected from us. We were able to lay the necessary groundwork for Phase 1 of BBMP. We were able to irrigate more than 12,000 hectares of farm. Without this maybe we will be at 19 percent only in term of food contribution in Central Luzon,” said Ross Esteban, chief of Public Affairs and Information of NIA-Tarlac.

NIA-Tarlac officials said an Italian company had promised to help fund the project and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) approved the P2.712-billion fund.

However, the earthquake and the Mt. Pinatubo eruption that devastated Central Luzon, particularly the province of Tarlac, stopped the construction of the dam during the time of President Cory.

During the term of President Fidel Ramos, he did not pay much attention to the BBMP project and instead focused on the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan.

In 2010, when President Aquino was elected, Agriculture Secretary Proseso Alcala told the Chief Executive that the BBMP is a priority project in Tarlac.

When Aquino visited Concepcion, Tarlac in November 2011, he said that the BBMP, which his mother started, would hopefully be completed by him rather than waiting for his grandchildren.

The project was re-evaluated and would now cost P19.326 billion.

NIA-Tarlac, however, was given a meager budget for the BBMP because of the strict policy of the Aquino administration when it comes to releasing funds to government agencies.

NIA-Tarlac said that in 2012 no budget was released to them.

The P60-million savings of NIA-Tarlac was used to rehabilitate the lahar silted irrigation canals and divert the water from Bulusan River to irrigate some 12.475 hectares of farmland in several Tarlac towns. With Louella Desiderio, Ric Sapnu

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