Free irrigation? No problem, but…
There could be possible repercussions if the government doesn’t have enough funds to keep maintaining the operations of irrigation dams, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told farmers in Central Luzon.
Alcala, who went to Nueva Ecija to talk to protesting farmers, said he is not opposed to the idea of free irrigation for farmers but warned this may do more harm than good especially if the government is left with no funds to cover the operational and maintenance upkeep of state-run irrigation facilities.
“In certain areas struck by typhoons where farming was deferred or where harvests did not exceed 40 percent of the targeted production, irrigation services are given free. NIA has no reason to charge farmers suffering from these conditions,” Alcala was quoted saying to a group of farmers in Palayan City.
Last Jan. 21, farmers from Central Luzon trooped to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to demand the abolition of irrigation service fees (ISF) that farmers are required to pay. Farmers complained they pay an average of P4,500 for ISFs even though their farmlands do not get full irrigation.
Alcala also cautioned against listening to presidential candidates who agree that irrigation fees should be abolished and instead subsidized by the government.
“If the candidate says irrigation is free upon winning the election, then he should be very careful about proceeding without proper study,” he said.
Alcala pointed out it would be more manageable if the government reduces the ISF by 25 percent on the first year, and charge 50 percent for the second year.
“(This is) so we can study what removing tariffs would do to the system,” he said. (Ched Romulo)