CITING ELECTION PROMISE
    Farmers ask Duterte to freeze irrigation fees

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    ANGELES CITY – A farmers’ group has urged Pres. Duterte to freeze irrigation service fees being collected from them by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) pending the passage of a law providing free irrigation to farmers nationwide.

    “Farmers and irrigators associations are paying penalties, interests and amortizations even in anomalous irrigation projects. The NIA still charges farmers irrigations fees ranging from P1,300 to more than P6,000 per hectare per cropping,” noted Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chair Joseph Canlas.

    “We are urging the Duterte government to implement a moratorium on the collection of irrigation service fees especially in areas affected by calamities pending the legislation of a free irrigation measure. Successive typhoons Karen and Lawin have severely devastated farmlands in Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Ilocos-Cordillera regions,” Canlas said.

    Canlas noted that despite Pres. Duterte’s campaign promise to provide free irrigation to farmers, the NIA has issued Memorandum Circular No. 46 reminding farmers of their irrigation service dues.

    He also asked the President to throw full support for the passage of House Bill 558 or the Free Irrigation Services Act filed by Anakpawis Partylist.

    “Irrigation is necessary and vital to agricultural production and overall rural development. To genuinely uplift the state of farmers, the State should provide necessary support and services, including free irrigation,”said Canlas.

    Canlas noted that “majority of ricelands are still rain-fed and farmers still rely on rainwater for irrigation. In areas with National Irrigation Systems (NIS) and Communal Irrigation Systems (CIS), farmers endure inefficient irrigation services and high irrigation fees.”

    He noted that “in the Bicol region, there are 313,602 hectares of ricelands but only a meager 4,000 hectares are serviced by the NIA or only 1.3 percent coverage while the remaining 98.7 percent of farmers rely on their own irrigation and maintenance of irrigation canals.”

    In Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, farmers are strongly supporting the measure for free irrigation services especially in areas serviced by the Upper Pampanga Integrated Irrigation System (UPRIIS) and Pantoc Communal Irrigation System. “Year in and year out, farmers complain about unserviceable, unmaintained and unrehabilitated irrigation systems which are both funded by public funds and ISF collection from farmers,” Canlas added.

    The KMP and the Pambansang Ugnayan para sa Libreng Patubig at Irigasyon, a campaign alliance of farmers and irrigators associations, called on Congress to immediately pass the free irrigation bills.

    Canlas said that farmers’ groups nationwide have common demands, including free irrigation nationwide especially in NIS covered by NIA, subsidized irrigation in CIS, affordable and reasonable irrigation rates from private irrigation providers, condonation of back accounts in unpaid irrigation fees including interests and penalties, and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities.

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