Kalinga farmers to gain from irrigation fee plan
TABUK CITY—If the incoming Duterte administration exempts farmers from paying irrigation fees, that singular act will spare rice farmers in Kalinga province from paying up to P16 million yearly.
Close to 10,000 farmers pay P1,500 a hectare during the wet season and P2,550 a hectare during the dry season for water distributed by the Upper Chico River Irrigation System (Ucris), according to the Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Apit Tako), a Cordillera alliance of peasant organizations in the region.
Operated by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Ucris discharges water to 11,300 hectares of rice fields in Tabuk and in Pinukpok town in Kalinga, and to farms in Quezon town in Isabela province. Tabuk rice fields served by Ucris span 6,438 ha.
A rehabilitation program that aims to improve the system, which is funded by the World Bank, is suffering from delays, however.
“Irrigation is a basic public service, therefore, farmers should not be charged service fees. Irrigation in most Southeast Asian countries is a free government service,” said Andres Wailan, Apit Tako spokesperson.
Incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he was lifting irrigation fees and had chastised NIA for objecting due to its impact on the upkeep of irrigation facilities.
The agency collected P9.7 million from Tabuk farmers during the monsoon season and P16.4 million during the dry season, Wailan said.
“Even if only 70 percent of the Tabuk farmers covered by the Ucris service area pay, NIA could still collect P6.8 million for the wet season and P11.5 million for the dry season,” he said.
Kalinga is classified as the biggest rice producer in the Cordillera, with Tabuk farms generating the bulk of harvests.
According to the Kalinga provincial planning and development office, 20,194 of 44,190 ha of farms in the province are irrigated. In Tabuk, only 8,464 of 17,116 ha of farms are irrigated. Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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