Free irrigation for farmers pushed

MANILA — A lawmaker is seeking to establish a free irrigation program to help the farmers increase their income and uplift their living conditions.

Rep. Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol) authored House Bill No. 37 to effectively and immediately address the issue of increased productivity and the attainment of food self-sufficiency of Filipino farmers.

Yap said under its Charter, Republic Act No. 3601 or An Act Creating the National Irrigation Administration, as amended by Presidential Decree 552 and PD 1702, as well as R.A. 8435, or the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Law, the National Irrigation Administration has the power and authority to collect Irrigation Service Fees (ISF).

“The rates of the NIA for the ISF are not very high and NIA can only collect up to an amount sufficient to cover the operation and maintenance of the irrigation system and is not allowed to collect amounts to recover the cost of capital or the indebtedness for the construction of the irrigation projects,” Yap said.

“Nevertheless, the imposition of the ISF is a huge burden for the farmer beneficiaries. It eats up on what otherwise would already be a small income for the farmer and their families. It leads farmers to further shy away from farming and engage in other endeavors,” Yap added.

Under the measure, all irrigation systems built, operated and maintained by the NIA, the Department of Agriculture (DA), or any other government agencies, or those turned over and maintained or operated by farmers’ organizations, irrigators’ associations or Local Government Units (LGU), shall be free of use and charges for farmer beneficiaries.

The measure to be known as the “Free Irrigation Law of 2016” shall repeal or modify Section 2, Paragraph C of R.A. 3601; Section 1, Paragraph B of PD 552; Section 1, Paragraph B of PD 1702, and Section 35 of R.A. 8435, prescribing the power and authority of the NIA to collect Irrigation Service Fees or other forms of charges for the use of irrigation system.

The DA, with the assistance of the NIA, shall formulate and promulgate the rules and regulations necessary for the implementation of the proposed Act. PNA/