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Free Irrigation to Raise Productivity and Increase Access to Markets – PANGANIBAN

 

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 5670 which seeks to strengthen assistance to all farmers by providing them with free irrigation services to boost their productivity.

The proposed “Free Irrigation Services Act” declares that the State shall pursue a genuine agricultural development strategy by providing support services to all farmers, including their irrigators’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives, with the end in view of raising their productivity and improving their access to markets.

More particularly, the government shall promote and institutionalize irrigation systems that are free, effective, suitable, applicable and efficient as a key strategy to achieve genuine agricultural development.

The qualified beneficiaries of the free irrigation program shall include farmers, irrigators’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives.

Owners or operators of corporate farms, plantations, fishponds and other non-agricultural crop users drawing water or using the drainage facilities of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) irrigation systems are not qualified beneficiaries of the program.

According to Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr., principal author of the bill and Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, “HB 5670 seeks to provide free irrigation service fees to all farmers except corporate entities drawing water from public irrigation facilities. The bill also seeks to condone all unpaid irrigation fees owed by farmers to NIA.”

The government, together with the farmers’ and irrigators’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives, shall endeavor to build and operationalize an effective grassroots-based management of irrigation systems, the funding of which shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).

For purposes of ensuring construction, repair and maintenance of irrigation systems administered by the NIA, the required amount for such shall be included in the annual GAA.

The NIA shall provide technical and financial assistance to local government units (LGUs) and all farmers, including their irrigators’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives with respect to irrigation systems located, utilized, and managed in their respective jurisdiction, including all functional equipment and facilities appurtenant thereto.

The amounts necessary to cover the requirement of the NIA for payment of salaries and maintenance and other operating expenses shall be funded under the GAA.

The NIA, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture (DA), farmers and their irrigators’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives and other stakeholders, shall formulate the implementing rules and regulations within 90 days from the effectivity of the Act.

Lastly, the bill repeals Section 2, paragraph (c) of Republic Act No. 3601 or ‘’An Act Creating the National Irrigation Administration”; Section 1, paragraph (b) of Presidential Decree No. 552; Section 1, paragraph (b) of P. D. No. 1702, otherwise known as “The National Irrigation Administration Act”; Section 35 of Republic Act 8435, otherwise known as the ‘’Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997”; and all other laws, executive and administrative orders, rules and regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the Act.

The principal authors of the bill include Reps. Jose Panganiban Jr., Arthur Yap, Anthony Bravo, Estrellita Suansing, Horacio Suansing Jr., Alfredo Garbin Jr., Ariel Casilao, Isagani Zarate, Magnolia Antonino, Roy Loyola, Conrado Estrella III, Vini Nola Ortega, Vilma Santos-Recto, Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Enrico Pineda, Michael Romero, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Divina Grace Yu, Angelina Tan, Henry Oaminal, Raul Tupas, Rico Geron, Salvio Fortuno, Gary Alejano, Noel Villanueva, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Orestes Salon, Delphine Gan Gee, Cecilia Leonila Chavez, Peter Unabia and Johnny Ty Pimentel, and Deputy Speaker Eric Singson.

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