NIA will continue to collect irrigation service fees for now

MANILA — The free irrigation for farmers may not be implemented until next year.

Undersecretary Maia Chiara Halmen Reina A. Valdez of the Office of the Cabinet Assistance System said there is “no clear policy” yet on the zero irrigation service fees (ISF) collection by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

Valdez told reporters Monday on the sidelines of the National Food Authority’s 44th founding anniversary that abolishing the ISF should be decided by the economic managers.

She said no fund has been released so far from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to NIA to cover the PHP4 billion ISF collections for next year.

Valdez added that abolishing the ISF also requires the amendment of the NIA mandate.

The collection of fees from farmers who use government-run irrigation facilities is part of NIA’s mandate under Republic Act No. 3601 which created the agency.

“So I think, while there is no clear policy on that — which also requires amendment of the NIA mandate, because under the law, they are required to collect ISF — (it will be) status quo for a while,” she added.

Valdez further said NIA will use ISF collections to maintain and operate the different irrigation systems at least for next year.

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol earlier said giving free irrigation to the Filipino farmers was a commitment made by the President Rodrigo Duterte. Leslie Venzon/