The National Irrigation Administration is a government-owned and controlled corporation primarily responsible for irrigation development in the country. With its birth in 1963, big irrigation systems started to mushroom in the country including the Magat River Integrated Irrigation System in Isabela and the Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation System in Nueva Ecija.
Formerly under the umbrella of the Department of Agriculture, NIA is now under the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM).
Irrigation of the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Baguio City, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao and Mt. Province was under the wings of the NIA in their mother regions—NIA Regions 1 & 2, even after the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in 1987.
A regional office of NIA in the Cordilleras was only created in 1993 as per directives of then-President Ramos after his visit in Baguio City. (The directives specifically included the establishment of a regional office of NIA in Baguio City in compliance with AO No. 36, series of 1987 authorizing agencies of the national government to maintain regional offices in CAR). To effect this, then Administrator Apolonio Bautista issued NIA MC No. 24 series of 1993 establishing NIA-CAR.
NIA-CAR started operations on May 11, 1993 with the head office established at the building of NIA-Benguet Provincial Irrigation Office in Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet. Provincial irrigation offices of the six provinces were turned over to NIA-CAR. The Upper Chico River Irrigation System (UCRIS) in Tabuk, Kalinga which was then under NIA Region 2 was also turned over to NIA-CAR. It was the only categorized national irrigation system in the region at that time.
In 2000, the Hapid Irrigation Project in Lamut, Ifugao, which was a small communal system at that time was implemented under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. It was soon to be categorized as a national system.
The Apayao Abulug Irrigation System which was managed by NIA Region 2 services part of Cagayan and part of Apayao. Due to the clamor of the farmers' federation and the Local Government Units of Apayao, the AAIS was divided into West AAIS and East AAIS. The division was based on the source of water, not on geographical location to facilitate the smoother Operation and Maintenance of the system since there were two diversion dams servicing the East and West sides of its service area.
In 2008, Executive Order No. 718 known as the implementation of the Approved NIA Rationalization Plan has set the merging of the provincial offices into Irrigation Management Offices (IMO). At present, NIA-CAR has two IMOs, Apayao and Kalinga IMOs, while Abra-Benguet-Ifugao-Mt. Province Irrigation Office is directly under the regional office.
In a span of 20 years, irrigation development in CAR rose from 24% in 1993 to 48% in 2013.
Now, NIA-CAR covers three National Irrigation Systems - the Upper Chico River Irrigation System in Kalinga with service areas in Quezon and Mallig, Isabela and Tabuk and Pinukpuk in Kalinga, the West Apayao Abulug Irrigation System with service areas in Cagayan and Apayao, and the Hapid Irrigation System in Lamut, Ifugao.
NIA-CAR has also built, repaired and rehabilitated over 3,000 Communal Irrigation Systems around the region as it continues to implement projects and programs consistent the government’s goal of food self-sufficiency.
Memorandum from the Executive Secretary - Office of the President, the Secretary of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary was designated Acting Chairperson of the NIA Board of Directors, 3 November 2016.