Aquino names Ecijano as new irrigation czar

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    CABANATUAN CITY – The manager of the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS) was named new administrator of National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

    Engr. Antonio Nangel, operations manager of NIA-UPRIIS, took his oath as NIA administrator before Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Thursday after President Benigno Simeon Aquino signed his appointment documents.

    Aquino chose Nangel because of his sound management of Pantabangan Dam having seated with Gov. Aurelio Umali and other local officials that cushioned the impact of heavy typhoons late 2009,

    UPRIIS is the country’s largest national irrigation system (NIS) and the operator of the giant Pantabangan Dam covering 102,000 hectares of farmlands in Central Luzon.

    Nangel’s oath-taking was witnessed by his wife Fely and daughter, Dr. Faye Nangel and various regional irrigation managers and department managers. His designation ended weeks of speculations on who would succeed Carlos Salazar, an appointee of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who now seats as representative of Pampanga’s 2nd district.

    Nangel was one of five contenders for the post. Others were Vic Vicmudo, project manager of the Balog-Balog Multi-purpose Irrigation Project, a Tarlaqueño; Acting Administrator Antonio Galvez, regional directors Felix Razo of Region 10 and Julius Makiling of Region 11 and former administrator Baltazar Usis.

    Nangel was reportedly endorsed to the post by Agriculture Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, daughter of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Gov. Aurelio Umali and a “well-connected” mayor in the province.

    Prior to his assumption, Nangel was the subject of a controversy when he was linked to the reported non-payment by UPRIIS of premium contributions to the Government Service Insurance Systems.

    Nangel denied the allegations, saying these are part of a demolition job to place him in a bad light. He said the allegations were without solid basis, saying the UPRIIS does not owe the GSIS a single centavo in unpaid premiums over the said period.

    Earlier published reports said that some 540 employees of the UPRIIS have been deprived of benefits and privileges because their premium contributions have not been remitted to the GSIS since 2005 even if these are deducted from their monthly pay. Reports quoted a group styling itself as the “Concerned Employees of NIA-UPRIIS.”

    A letter-complaint against Nangel has reportedly been lodged before the Presidential Management Staff.

    The reports said Nangel was relieved during the time of then-NIA administrator Orlando Soriano after the latter allegedly uncovered many irregularities and anomalies at UPRIIS.

    Nangel’s new post capped a banner year for him. Last June, he was elevated to the NIA Hall of Fame for bagging the most outstanding manager award because of the UPRIIS’ high viability index with a surplus of P91 million as of July 31.

    Nangel said the efficient performance of UPRIIS has rendered the El Niño phenomenon ineffective in Nueva Ecija due to the abundance of irrigation water for farmlands, enabling farmers to plant a third crop and enjoy bountiful harvest.

    Not only that, he added, UPRIIS also introduced the rationing technology, which is only unique among the 75,000 Central Luzon farmers serviced by the system.

    Because of high yields, he said, farmers paid their irrigation service fees to the UPRIIS, resulting in very high collection efficiency over the past three years. He said for 2009, UPRIIS collected P350-million worth of ISFs, up from P280-million in 2008 and P240-million in 2007.

    Nangel said he would try to duplicate at the NIA central office the accomplishments of UPRIIS.

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