Claim: The Free Irrigation Service Act distributed hectares of land during the Duterte administration.
Why we fact-checked this: The post making the erroneous claim has had over 5,000 reactions, 1,800 comments, and 445 shares, as of writing.
The bottom line: Republic Act No. 10969 or the Free Irrigation Service Act (FISA) was signed into law by former president Rodrigo Duterte on February 8, 2018, but it did not distribute land to farmers.
FISA stopped the collection of irrigation service fees (ISFs) from farmers who owned eight hectares of land or less. It also condoned their still unpaid ISF debts.
Collection of fees: In his 1998 State of the Nation Address (SONA), former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada temporarily suspended collection of ISFs but this resumed in the form of socialized ISFs through Administrative Order 17.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) was tasked to collect these fees and implement measures to ensure the development of our National Irrigation Systems (NIS).
A study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in 2019 showed that prior to RA 10969, ISFs collected were: (1) below the actual operating and maintenance costs for NIS, (2) often left unpaid by farmers, and (3) only accounted for 2% of the actual costs in farming. FISA was positively received by farmers. It increased farmer income by reducing the money shelled out for farming.
Land distribution: While agrarian land distribution to farmers continued under Duterte, hectares of land distributed have been reportedly the lowest since 2005. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s latest report, only 10,308 hectares of agricultural land have been redistributed in 2021. Land distribution was not stipulated in FISA in any way or form. – Pola Regalario/Rappler.com
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