The Agriculture Department and a major Israeli agro-industrial company will soon start formal negotiations to construct 6,200 units of solar-powered irrigation systems worth P44 billion.
Agriculture Secretary Manuel Piñol said the proposed project had the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte, following recent talks with Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz who relayed the intention of several Israel agricultural companies to support Philippine farming.
“The proposal of the LR Group, one of Israel’s biggest agro-industrial companies, is to fund and build solar-powered Irrigation projects which would irrigate 500,000 hectares of rice and high-value crops farms over the next three years,” he said.
The Israel company visited Davao City, Tagum City, and Llanera, Nueva Ecija and offered to establish the SPIS projects of the Agriculture Department in partnership with local construction companies.
The proposal includes a 10-year loan to cover the entire project cost of P44 billion. The fund would be guaranteed by both the Philippine and Israeli governments
The offer will be submitted to the National Economic Development Authority for an assessment and to endorse the project to the President.
The proposed project is a major breakthrough in the productivity program of the department especially in rice, where only 1.2 million hectares out of 3.9-million are irrigated, said Piñol.
The system with the capacity to irrigate 500,000 hectares could increase Philippine rice production by 4 million metric tons of paddy rice or 2.6 million MT of milled rice.
“Th additional production would be enough to cover for the national shortfall which is supplied by imported rice from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and other countries,” said Piñol.
The president endorsed the project in March 2017 but less than 200 units were built due to lack of funding.