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Duterte okeys talks on Israel P44-B loan offer

AGRICULTURE • 22:19 PM Tue Feb 12, 2019
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Manny Piñol
One of the country's solar powered irrigation system. (DA Media Group)

Buluan, Maguindanao - President Rody Duterte yesterday gave the green light for the start of the initial negotiations between the Department of Agriculture and a major Israeli agro-industrial firm which earlier offered to build 6,200 units of Solar Powered irrigation Systems in the country worth P44-B.The President issued the directive following his talks with Israeli Ambassador Rafael Harpaz last week who briefed him on the interest of several Israel agricultural companies to support the development of Philippine farming.Go ahead. Start the talks, President Duterte said when I asked for his directives on the proposal of the LR Group, one of Israel's biggest agro-industrial companies, 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.The Israel company, whose executives visited Davao City, Tagum City and Llanera, Nueva Ecija last week, has offered to establish the SPIS projects of the DA in partnership with local construction companies.The proposal includes a 10-year loan to be guaranteed by both the Philippines and Israeli governments amounting to P44-B.When finalized, the offer will be submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) which will review it and endorse the project to the President.The LR Group, represented by its executives Avi Elkayam, and its subsidiary Innovative Agro Industry Ltd. (IAI) led by its Chairman Ilan Weiss and business manager Gallit Tamir, engaged the DA shortly after the Business Forum organised by the Israeli Chamber of Commerce in Taguig City two weeks ago.In that business forum, I was invited to present to several Israel companies the business opportunities in Philippine Agriculture, including the Solar Powered Irrigation Systems project of the DA.The offer to fund and construct 6,200 units of SPIS is a major breakthrough in the productivity program of the DA, especially in rice, where only 1.2-million hectares, out of 3.9-million, are irrigated.When completed, the SPIS covering 500,000-hectares could increase Philippine rice production by 4-million metric tons of paddy rice or 2.6-million metric tons of milled rice.That additional production would be enough to cover for the national shortfall which is supplied by imported rice from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and other countries.In March 2017, President Duterte endorsed the Solar Irrigation Project of the DA but less than 200 units have been built or are being built so far because of lack of budgetary allocation.

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