Senator Cynthia Villar already sponsored the bill making free irrigation services to small farmers permanent.
Senate Bill No. 1465 under Committee Report No. 103 or the “Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017,” exempts small farmers, or those farmers whose combined farm-holdings cover an area of not more than five hectares, from paying the irrigation service fees (ISF).
Villar, chair of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, noted that farmers are already reaping the benefits of free irrigation with the inclusion of P2 billion in the 2017 national budget to cover the ISF being collected from farmers, but stressed “the need to make free irrigation a policy, institutionalize it to make it more permanent.”
“As I have repeatedly cited, Filipino farmers and fisherfolks are still among the poorest in the country and freeing farmers from the burden of paying irrigation service fees will significantly reduce production cost, hasten productivity and increase the income of farmers,” the lady legislator said in her sponsorship speech.
“Farmers and fisherfolks comprise 40 percent of Filipinos living below the poverty line,” the lady lawmaker added.
The lady senator said the bill is in line with the commitment to contribute to the lowering of the cost of production of small farmers who cannot afford to pay the ISF of national and communal irrigation systems, and relieve them from the burden and consequence of unpaid ISF.
She noted that the proposed bill seeks to level the playing fields for Filipino farmers with the farmers of Thailand and Vietnam who are heavily subsidized by their governments.
“As I have mentioned in many occasions, those small farmers or family farmers will be the ones to feed us – not the corporate farmers. Even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has acknowledged that the future of food is in the hands of small family farmers and fishersfolks,” she said.
In sponsoring the measure, Villar also highlighted the need to enact legislation addressing the barriers that keep Filipino farmers from being more successful such as lack of mechanization, lack of technical expertise, lack of financial literacy, and inadequate access to cheap credit.
“As we work on breaking down the barriers, we also have to take care of helping them in their daily burdens and concerns, such as irrigation service fees. Being among the poorest in the country, for them, every few centavos do count,” Villar said.