Philippines rice sufficiency in 2028 dubious – group

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Philippines rice sufficiency in 2028 dubious � group
Farmers harvest rice using sickles in Bocaue, Bulacan on January 2, 2024.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — The National Irrigation Administration (NIA)’s projection that the Philippines can achieve rice sufficiency in 2028 is dubious, according to farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag).

“Confidence should be accompanied by actual actions. All previous administrators (of NIA) promised to fix the country’s irrigation system,” Sinag executive director Jayson Cainglet told The STAR.

On Sunday, NIA administrator Eduardo Guillen said the Philippines can achieve rice sufficiency in 2028 as areas for irrigation will increase while palay production is expected to go up this year despite the El Niño phenomenon.

Cainglet noted that farmers can plant thrice a year as long as there is irrigation.

“We have been pushing to boost the local production. We should be food self-sufficient. That can only be done if there is full support for irrigation system so that whether it is raining or drought, there is available water,” he said.

“It is funny that during the rainy season, the dams overflow and then you release water but when there is drought, the water from the dams is not enough. Something is wrong. You need to release water because you have no small water impounding systems, purely dams,” he added.

Cainglet argued it would not take until 2028 for the country to achieve rice sufficiency if the irrigation system is fixed and there are good drought-resistant varieties.

If water is available for irrigation for the entire year, farmers’ harvest could increase by 30 percent per hectare, he added.

“It will address the 20 percent gap (in production) currently being imported,” he said.

Farmers in Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan are already affected by El Niño, he noted.

As for palay production, it is expected to go down this year amid the impact of the dry spell, he added.

The Department of Agriculture earlier said palay production hit a record high 20.06 million metric tons in 2023.

Guillen said the agency is implementing short-term, medium-term and long-term projects to provide irrigation nationwide, which includes the establishment of reservoir-type dams and diversion dams.

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