SEN. Cynthia Villar presided over the hearing of Finance Subcommittee B on the proposed budgets of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Philippine Coconut Authority Friday, September 8, 2023.
Under the National Expenditure Program, NIA’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 is P41.2 billion.
At the start of the hearing, Villar reminded NIA officials to separate allocation for personnel services and overhead from project expenditure in their report, stressing that personnel and overhead expenses should not go beyond 55 percent of the entire budget.
“In studying the budget of NIA for 2024, we have to look back at the accomplishment in 2022 and the partial accomplishment in 2023 so we will have a comparable figure for our 2024 budget,” Villar said
Sen. Raffy Tulfo, also present during the hearing, calls on acting Administrator of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Eduardo Guillen to carry out his responsibilities effectively by removing corrupt individuals from the agency.
Tulfo grilled Guillen on the various corruption happening in the NIA.
He pointed out that corruption is still prevalent within the agency, noting that the suspension orders issued to some of its officials are indicative of existing irregularities.
“Do your job well. Get rid of these people engaged in corruption in your agency,” Tulfo stressed as he maintained the need to get serious in fighting corruption inside the department.
In response, Guillen assured the committee that he would do everything within his power to address the agency’s issues for the benefit of the farmers.
Guillen, who appeared to be bold and honest, admitted before the investigating body that there is indeed some corruption that is happening in most organizations here and abroad which he described as mere lapses by some people.
Guillen was the one who presented the proposed P41.2 B budget of NIA for 2024.
Sen. Tulfo explained that the only way the corruption problem can be solved is to admit and face it squarely without denial or sugar coating.
Sen. Tolentino explained that any corruption past or present can be investigated and prosecuted by the Office of the Ombudsman based on a complaint by any person, or any act or mission of any public officer when such an act is illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient by any officer or employee of the government.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III quizzes Guillen on the agency’s plans to rehabilitate and improve its national and communal irrigation systems.
Pimentel said NIA should make restoration of its irrigation systems a priority so their projects won’t go to waste.
“Your proposal is to restore 42,000 hectares of the total 300,000 hectares of irrigation systems that are not in working condition. You are asking us to fund new irrigation projects yet you cannot restore the old ones. Something is terribly wrong,” Pimentel said.
Guillen said the Department of Budget and Management had only approved the rehabilitation of 15,000 hectares of irrigation system out of the proposed 42,000 hectares because it was costly.
Pimentel said the rehabilitation of 15,000 hectares of irrigation is “too modest.”