Free Ir­ri­ga­tion for Farm­ers in 2017 Nat’l Budget

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TOPSTORIES! -

MAGALANG — An­other im­por­tant high­light of the 2017 na­tional budget is the gov­ern­ment sub­sidy on the ir­ri­ga­tion ser­vice fees (ISF) be­ing paid by farm­ers to the Na­tional Ir­ri­ga­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (NIA).

The P2 bil­lion ad­di­tional al­lo­ca­tion for NIA un­der the pro­posed 2017 Gen­eral Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Act (GAA) is in­tended to cover the ISF col­lected by the agency from farm­ers’ as­so­ciat i ons.

An ac­com­pa­ny­ing Spe­cial Pro­vi­sion for this pur­pose spec­i­fies that the P2 bil­lion al­lo­ca­tion will be used to cover the op­er­at­ing re­quire­ments of NIA and the main­te­nance of ex­ist­ing ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties which were pre­vi­ously funded out of the col­lec­tions from ISF.

“Our farm­ers, who feed the na­tion, are among the poor­est of the poor who ur­gently need gov­ern­ment sup­port and in­ter­ven­tion. At present, they need to pay the ir­ri­ga­tion ser­vice fee for NIA to ir­ri­gate their farms when, in fact, what we need to pur­sue is the low­er­ing of pro­duc­tion costs so we can achieve food se­cu­rity, en­cour­age more cit­i­zens to en­gage in or go back to farm­ing, and im­prove the in­come of our small farm­ers,” said Se­na­tor Loren Le­garda, Chair of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Fi nance.

The NIA is au­tho­rized to col­lect the ISF pur­suant to Re­pub­lic Act No. 3601, but Le­garda said it is time to amend the said law.

“This in­ter­ven­tion in the budget is only the first step to free our small farm­ers from the added bur­den of hav­ing to pay for ir­ri­ga­tion fees. What we re­ally in­tend is to make it a pol­icy of gov­ern­ment,” the se­na­tor said.

Le­garda is the co-au­thor of the pro­posed Free Ir­ri­ga­tion Re­form and Restruc­tur­ing Act, which seeks to re­move from NIA the func­tions of main­tain­ing ir­ri­ga­tion projects and col­lect­ing ir­ri­ga­tion ser­vices and other fees.

Un­der the said mea­sure, fees be­ing col­lected by NIA from its ir­ri­ga­tion ben­e­fi­cia­ries will be dis­con­tin­ued and the man­age­ment and main­te­nance of ir­ri­ga­tion fa­cil­i­ties will be turned over to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries and will be pro­vided with pro­fes­sional man­age­ment sup­port.

“The free ir­ri­ga­tion for farm­ers un­der the 2017 na­tional budget will be a big boost for the agri­cul­ture sec­tor and we will con­tinue to sup­port im­prove­ments in the sec­tor through var­i­ous mea­sures and poli­cies, in­clud­ing the im­me­di­ate pas­sage of the pro­posed Free Ir­ri­ga­tion Act,” Le­garda said.

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