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NIA chief told to quit if…

Still holding on to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free irrigation to farmers, incoming Agriculture chief Emmanuel Piñol has threatened to fire National Irrigation Administration (NIA) chief if he fails to release the water that will help irrigate farms ahead of La Niña.

“The issue of free irrigation for the Filipino farmers is a Presidential commitment and it is non-negotiable. (We should) find a way to make sure it is implemented by 2017,” Piñol said in a statement.

Piñol was reacting to the statement made by NIA spokesperson who said free irrigation for farmers would adversely affect the operations of the agency.

“Anybody in government who does not share President Duterte’s vision for the Filipino farmer is free to leave and find another job,” Piñol said.

“If you find this hard to understand and difficult to implement, I will place a big garbage can in front of my office on July 1. You could throw in your resignation letters in that trash can and leave government,” he added.

Piñol said that he received reports that NIA in Region 2 has failed to release water to irrigate the farms across the province, threatening to fire NIA Administrator Florencio Padernal if this kind of situation goes on.

“In my exasperation, I told (Department of Agriculture regional director Jun) Alviar to relay to the NIA director my request for him to release the water as requested by the farmers or else my first official act as Secretary of Agriculture by July 1 will be to fire him.” Piñol said.

He explained that the early release of water is very critical because of the threat of La Niña by November. It is a must that the rice farmers are able to plant by July.

“There is really something wrong with the way the NIA is being managed right now. Many of its top officials may have forgotten that the reason why there is a NIA is because government would like to produce food for the Filipino people by providing irrigation,” Piñol said.

“I hope people in government now, especially those who will work with me in the agriculture department and its attached agencies, will understand this – we are here not to lord it over the people but to serve them,” he added. (Madelaine Miraflor)

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