Lawmaker wants farmers’ irrigation fees scrapped
MANILA, Philippines – A party-list lawmaker has filed a bill seeking to scrap the irrigation services fees (ISFs) paid by Filipino farmers to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao filed House Bill (HB) No 558 or the “Free Irrigation Services Act of 2016, which he said, seeks to provide government subsidies to farmers and irrigators associations and cooperatives "to ensure the effective and grassroots-based management of irrigation systems."
Funds needed to build, repair, and maintain the country’s irrigation systems would instead be sourced from the national budget.
Farmers would also be given support services and assistance in the areas of production, production support, post-harvest, facilities, and irrigation services. (READ: Making rice cultivation more eco-friendly)
HB 558 also seeks to allow the NIA to source fees from consumers themselves for the construction of new irrigation systems, but they will be reimbursed the construction cost within 25 years.
“The NIA is allowed to charge and collect from the beneficiaries of the water from all irrigation systems constructed by or under its administration, such fees or administration charges as may be necessary to cover the cost of operation, maintenance and insurance,” Casilao said.
The collection of the ISFs is part of the NIA’s current mandate under Republic Act Number 3601 which created the agency.
Over the years, politicians and farmers’ groups have called for the government to stop charging farmers for the maintenance of government-built irrigation facilities.
Anti-ISF advocates explained the fees only add to the burden of Filipino farmers and make them less productive.
The ISF is used to operate dams, run pumps, operate gates and drainage ditches, maintain services and access roads, and repair minor damages caused by natural calamities.
In June 2013, former president Benigno Aquino III scolded the NIA for irrigating only 65% of its target coverage. – Rappler.com