President Rodrigo Duterte has committed PHP41 billion for the establishment of a solar-powered irrigation system in the Philippines in the next three years, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.

“The idea of providing water by big irrigation system is actually an age-old idea. What we need are small irrigation systems because we have small landholdings,” he told participants of Tuesday’s Food Security Summit here for the Visayas regions.

Piñol said right now there is an ongoing construction of 169 small river systems in various parts of the country as they looked forward to irrigate 500,000 hectares of new rice farms. Each solar-powered system costs PHP6.7million each.

In a follow-up interview, he said the solar power- irrigation system is not intended to compete with big irrigation systems. “It is intended to complement the big irrigation systems,” he said.

Before the year ends, Iloilo City is expected to ground break its PHP11.2-billion Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) II.

Once completed, the project is expected to provide irrigation water to 9,500 hectares of new irrigable areas and rehabilitation of 22,340 hectares that are covered by the existing irrigation systems covering 23 municipalities and two cities in Iloilo.

During the same event, Piñol also presented the loan program of the department made available to farmers under the Productivity Loan Easy Access (PLEA). It is payable in eight years with a six percent interest per annum. Farmers can avail of loans up to PHP50,000 per hectare.

He also showed participants the computerized program, which was developed by the DA. It identifies what plant is suited in each and every municipality and city in the country as well as the groundwater availability.

He said soon they will be coming up with a national fertilizer map that will tell what nutrient is deficient and what fertilizer will be utilized in a particular area.

With this map, there is no longer a need for soil testing.

“This is how modern agriculture is now,” he said.

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