NIA seeks more funds for free irrigation
Aiming to start fulfilling one of President Duterte’s campaign promises this year, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is hoping the government will provide P2 billion or more as subsidy for free irrigation and to triple the budget for its projects in 2018.
The subsidy would replace the annual P2 billion that NIA would lose starting this year after it stopped collecting the Irrigation Service Fee (ISF) in January following the President’s directive to give free irrigation to farmers, NIA Administrator Ricardo Visaya told reporters on Wednesday.
NIA would also stop collecting around P370 million yearly in shares from its partner farmers or irrigators’ associations.
A bill pending in Congress seeks to remove the collection of ISF from the NIA charter to make the free irrigation program permanent.
Visaya said the subsidy would fund the communal irrigation system for farms that are less than 1,000 hectares.
The ISF accounts for 3.4 percent to 6.1 percent of production cost per hectare and had been used to offset NIA’s operational expenses, including system maintenance and personnel services, according to a NIA study.
Visaya, however, said all unpaid ISF obligations before the 2017 National Budget was passed would still be collected.
NIA has a budget allocation of P38.37 billion for 2017—P25.65 billion for general administration and support and P12.72 billion for projects such dams, earth canals and piping systems.
He said the agency wanted to triple the budget for projects “so we can construct dams faster.”
Visaya said NIA was eyeing to increase its 2018 budget by 19 percent to P45.867 billion.
He said the budget could be increased by 19 to 20 percent yearly to allow it to achieve its targets by the end of the Duterte administration.
He said NIA still had to develop the irrigation system for 49 percent, or 1.27 million hectares, of the country’s 3.12 million hectares of irrigable lands.
“We would like to fast-track the development of these for 2018,” Visaya said.
NIA would be targeting the irrigation of 23,155 hectares in new areas and restoring irrigation to 13,507 hectares this year, Visaya said. —WITH A REPORT FROM MA. CASELDA D. CRUZ
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