Tuesday, June 25, 2013

P-Noy hit for ‘un-presidential’ scolding of NIA execs in anniversary rites, says he’s a ‘KJ’

CABANATUAN CITY – President Aquino’s scolding of the   National Irrigation Administration on its 50th (Golden) anniversary rites Tuesday afternoon has drawn a sharp reaction from officials and rank-and-file employees of the agency who rebuked the Chief Executive for allegedly spoiling the party and for being a KJ (killjoy) because of his “un-presidential sermon.”

Several NIA officials and employees interviewed by The STAR said Mr. Aquino’s attack on NIA Administrator Antonio Nangel and the agency’s supposed failure to meet its targets was uncalled for and inappropriate as he ignored the agency’s having achieved corporate financial viability, the first time it has happened in 50 years.

The President, in his 15-minute speech at the NIA compound, said he was “dismayed” with the NIA leadership because it was only able to irrigate 52,000 hectares out of its 81,170-hectare target in 2012, or a 65% accomplishment rate.

The President started his speech by citing that from 2001 to 2009, NIA failed to meet its yearly irrigation targets, getting as far as only 66%. He said in 2011, when he is already President, NIA was able to irrigate 32,830 out of its target area of 37,659 hectares or a high 87%.

He said he was dismayed that this was never sustained as only a year later, the percentage irrigated compared to the target was only 65%. “We are now back to line of 6. We might slide back to 30%,” he said.

“I will be honest with you, I am still dismayed because until now, it shows that there is little change happening in the National Irrigation Administration. We are already in the middle of our term and it is difficult if until now, you still don’t know what you want to do,” he said, as Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala who introduced him and Nangel, listened stoically.

Mr. Aquino said he is not a CCTV who could possibly monitor the performance of each government agency. He said he won’t accept lame excuses.

The President also failed to hide his disappointment over the failure of NIA to implement the Balog-Balog Irrigation Project in his home province of Tarlac. He said the project was conceptualized as early as the term of his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino but this has not started nor broken ground yet after almost three decades.

“We are already three years in office yet nothing has happened. Is this worth being funded? If so, let’s do it. If not, let’s stop it altogether,” he said.   

He said if only the BIP was implemented, then the harvest cycle in Tarlac would have been 7.5 a year. “It’s rice already turned stone,” he lamented.

Turning to Nangel, he said : “Administrator Nangel, help me to implement it. If you want to do it, nothing is impossible. If you don’t want to, it’s impossible,” he said.

After finishing his sermon, the President left in a huff, without even waving to the crowd who he failed to acknowledge at the start of his speech.

Prior to Mr. Aquino’s speech, the atmosphere inside the oven-hot venue was festive and upbeat as Nangel excitedly rattled off the agency’s accomplishments under his watch. He said that irrigation development in the country rose from 49% in 2009 to 56% in 2012 owing to the funding support from the Aquino administration.

He said NIA was able to restore idle farms, adding it only needs to irrigate 12,000 hectares to achieve the Rice Self-Sufficiency Program by the end of this year.

Nangel said NIA is   focused, not only on its mandate of irrigation development, considered the key to increased crop output along with  improved quality of rice seeds, post-harvest facilities, marketing and credit support and farm mechanization; but also on construction of mini-hydro power plants along irrigation canals, eco-tourism in reservoir, and potable water supply.

Turning the tables on Aquino, NIA officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the President failed to take into account the attainment of financial viability under the leadership of Alcala and Nangel.   

NIA officials and personnel said President Aquino appears to have engaged in fault-finding. “What he saw are the supposed failures of NIA but what about the accomplishments like the viability? Maybe he does not know what viability meant. He entirely missed the point,” one of them said.

A former NIA administrator who heard the tongue-lashing, said the timing was inappropriate. “It’s supposed to be a time of jubilation, of celebration because it’s the NIA’s 50th year. Everybody was full of energy then suddenly he would spoil the whole party with his sermon,” the former official said. 

He admitted, however that with P-Noy, “expect the unexpected.”

Several employees, including those who traveled all the way from far-flung provinces, said what they expected from the President was the announcement of the grant of an anniversary bonus. “Instead, what we got was anniversary sermon. He is a true-blue KJ (killjoy),” one of them complained.

Another said the President picked the wrong agency in highlighting bad performance. “We won’t take it sitting down. Why, is the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) better off than the NIA? Of course not. It’s still graft-ridden,” the employee said.

Others said the supposed “bad performance” of NIA from 2001 to 2009 should not be blamed on Nangel since he only came in only as administrator in 2010.     

Another employee said the agency would be better off by not inviting the Chief Executive in next year’s anniversary rites “so as not to spoil the fun.” (Manny Galvez) 

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