By Lilybeth G. Ison , PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
The current dispute between China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the Philippines, on the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal might affect projects supposed to be funded by Beijing.
Parallel to this are strict quarantine rules being implemented by China on Philippine fruits.
This came under sharp focus when Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala revealed the implementation of the Irrigation Component Phase 2 of the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project.
He made the disclosure during the hearing Wednesday of the DA’s P74.1 billion proposed budget for next year at the committee on appropriation of the House of Representatives.
The project was originally for funding by the Chinese government, through its Official Development Assistance (ODA).
The project will now be funded by the South Korean government thru the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea EximBank).
The Irrigation Component Phase 2 of the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project will amount to P7.05 billion.
Of this, some P5.29 billion was supposedly to be financed through an ODA loan amounting to P5.29 billion from China and a P1.76-billion counterpart fund from the Philippine government.
“Actually, we have options if ever China backs out from funding the Casecnan Phase 2 project,” said Alcala.
He said he already talked with the Korean government for possible funding support.
Alcala said another other option they are looking into, where they can source funding, is the use of the government equity fund.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier approved three irrigation projects which included the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II, Umayam River Irrigation Project and the Irrigation Component Phase II of the Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project.
These are expected to provide more jobs as well as strengthen infrastructure support in the agriculture sector.
NEDA Deputy Director-General Rolando G. Tungpalan said the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase 2 in Iloilo was a groundbreaking venture.
This, in terms of scale and importance in facilitating the increase in food production and ensuring food security in the country.
It was tagged as to date the largest Korea Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF)-supported project worldwide.
The Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase 2 involves the construction of a storage dam, a high dam and reservoir across the Jalaur River.
Also, other structures will be established in support of a hydro-electric power plant to be built in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo for a potential bulk water supply connection with the Metro Iloilo Water District.
The project is expected to provide water supply to 22, 340 hectares of farmlands, increase palay production and other crops in the area, strengthen the region’s Irrigators Associations, and enhance community organizing activities for IAs in 9,500-hectare new irrigable areas that will be created upon completion of the project.
The two other projects — the Umayam River Irrigation Project and the Casecnan Phase 2 will be funded by the Korean government.
Alcala said completion of the Casecnan Irrigation Project Phase 2 would be to ensure the country’s food sustainability especially on the staple.
He also assured members of the House appropriations committee that the government’s rice self-sufficiency target after 2013 is on time.
“I assure you the country will be exporting premium or high grade variety rice by 2013,” the DA chief said.
If ever the country may need to import rice in 2013 to augment its buffer stock, Alcala said it will be much lower than the 500,000 metric tons the Philippines has imported for the year.
But he stressed that with the various interventions and assistance the government is giving out to the farmers such as the early cropping scheme and the distribution of free certified seeds including free insurance, “we may not need to import rice next year.”