Senator wants gov't to condone unpaid irrigation fees | Inquirer News

Senator wants gov’t to condone unpaid irrigation fees

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 10:20 AM April 17, 2017

To alleviate the financial strain suffered by underprivileged agriculture stakeholders, the government should condone P13 billion in outstanding irrigation service fees (ISFs) owed by individual farmers and farming cooperatives to the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said on Monday.

“Social justice demands that we lend a helping hand to these honest, hardworking farmers who are burdened by unfair debts. These people are the backbone of our agricultural sector, and government needs to look out for their welfare,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

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The senator also wants the NIA to stop collecting ISFs, which he said have further reduced the already meager monthly income of small farmers and added to their monthly expenses.

Gatchalian said the average ISF rate charged to farmers during the dry season is three cavans per hectare per year times the prevailing National Food Authority (NFA) price for rice per kilo, and 2.5 cavans per hectare per year during the wet season.

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The NIA, he said, collects the ISFs for yields of 40 cavans and above and the fund collected is used to cover the cost of operation and maintenance and to recover the cost of construction of irrigation systems nationwide.

“Irrigation is a key factor in increasing agricultural productivity, rice sufficiency and food security. It should be the obligation of the State to provide free irrigation services,”  the senator said.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, has filed Senate Bill No. 1412, which proposes the repeal of the provision in the (NIA) charter that authorized the agency to charge and collect irrigation fees from users.

He also wants the government to stop collecting  unpaid ISF arrears, pointing out that a P2 billion subsidy in irrigation fees had already been included  in the 2017 budget of the NIA to cover the fees to be collected this year.

“This intervention in the 2017 GAA is now paving the way for free irrigation services to Filipino farmers,”  the senator added. AU/rga

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TAGS: Agriculture, irrigation fees, National Irrigation Administration, News, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian
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