The bicameral conference committee on the bill providing free irrigation services to small farmers has reconciled the disagreeing provisions of the versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and head of the Senate panel, said the bicameral conference committee on the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 1465 (Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017) and House Bill 5670 (Free Irrigation Services Act) succeeded to come up with a reconciled version.
“We are very happy for this opportunity to help institutionalize free irrigation services to poor farmers. This is just one of the needed reforms to reduce production cost, hasten productivity and increase the income of farmers,” Villar said.
The veteran legislator also added, “Free irrigation is a campaign promise of President Duterte. We are confident that after the ratification of both houses of Congress, the President will sign this landmark measure into law.”
The seasoned lawmaker, principal sponsor of the bill in the Senate, said the committee was able to reach a compromise on the coverage of the bill to provide free irrigation services to farmers with farm holding of not more than 8 hectares.
The committee also agreed to condone all unpaid irrigation fees and the corresponding penalties of small farmers with landholdings of 8 hectares or below to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
On the issue of the revocation of the corporate status of NIA, the committee agreed to let a separate legislation address it considering that NIA’s projects and operations will now be fully funded by the national government.
The Senate panel was also composed of Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Francis Pangilinan.
The House of Representatives was headed by ANAC-IP Party List Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr. The members were Representatives Arthur Yap, Noel Villanueva, Ariel Casilao, Sharon Garin, Henry Oaminal, Jericho Nograles and Cecilia Leonila Chavez.