Free irrigation act lapses into law, farmers demand IRR

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    CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga- The Free Irrigation Services Act lapsed into law after Pres. Duterte failed to sign it last January 19, and farmers are now demanding Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) to finally realize free irrigation for them nationwide.

    “The Free Irrigation Services Act lapsed into law without President Duterte’s signature last January 19, and we now ask the DA and its attached agency National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to present the Implementing IRR for the details and conditionalities of the free irrigation services act,” the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement.

    Under the law, a legislation passed by Congress but remains unact- ed and unsigned by the President automatically becomes a law. In some cases, however, the law could not be implement- ed without the IRR.

    In the meantime, the NIA has continued to collect irrigation fees from farmers, KMP said.

    “We are raising im- portant issues before Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol. Ever since he became agriculture chief, he has refused to face KMP member-farmers seeking dialogue. Now, we want him to address our demands,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos lamented.

    KMP secretary general Antonio Flores noted that “providing free irrigation is actually a backlog of the Duterte administration. Now that free irrigation is finally a law, we want it dutifully and fairly implemented so that farmers can benefit from the free irrigation service.”

    “Our feedback is that NIA has continued to collect operation and maintenance or O and M fees from farmers. We want this clarified because the cost for O and M could be even bigger than the actual fees for irrigation of farms. Besides, NIA has a budget of over P40-billion for this fiscal year that can easily cover or subsidize the cost,” Antonio said.

    For his part, Flores noted that “a genuine free irrigation would liberate farmers from one layer of burden which is the high cost of irrigation fees.”

    The KMP also pressed Piñol on other issues, including the effects of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).

    “Farmers are feeling the heavy impact of TRAIN and its consequent new and additional taxes. TRAIN will have an impact on the production cost due to the non-stop increase in oil prices,” Ramos said.

    He said “the increase in cost of living and production will take toll on the livelihood of farmers. Rice and food prices have increased in the past weeks. It is enraging that farmers who produce food cannot anymore afford its cost.”

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