Escudero wants conversion ban on irrigated lands
Senator Francis Escudero said if elected vice president, he will push for a ban on the conversion of all irrigated and irrigable lands to residential, commercial and industrial use to preserve the country’s prime agricultural lands and help sustain food security.
Escudero said “massive land conversion for non-agricultural uses has been one of the key factors for food insecurity and rising costs of basic commodities in recent years.”
He said a number of agricultural lands critical to food production have been transformed into subdivisions, commercial centers, golf courses and export processing zones, among others.
Escudero also said under his tandem with Senator Grace Poe, the country’s irrigated lands would be increased by 100,000 hectares every year.
Data from National Irrigation Administration (NIA) showed there are 1.7 million hectares of irrigated lands in the country as of 2014, but the figure is still 1.3 million short of the 3 million estimated total irrigable areas identified by the agency.
Escudero has also been pushing for the abolition of the irrigation service fees, which NIA collects from farmers to sustain its operation and to help farmers cope with rising production costs, particularly during drought.
“Bakit nga ba tuwing gumagawa ng kalye ang gobyerno ay hindi naman nagbabayad ang mayayaman pero ang mga magsasaka nagbabayad pa rin sa kanilang irigasyon?” he asked.
Escudero said NIA has received a substantial budget infusion since 2013, jumping 19-fold to P32.7 billion this year, and can very well fund the operation of the government-built irrigation facilities.
Farmers pay an estimated average ISF of P4,500 per hectare a year, which is equivalent to five cavans of palay. The NIA collects the ISFs for yields with 40 cavans and above.
The rate is based on the prevailing National Food Authority support price for rice which is P17 per kilo. With 50 kilos in a cavan, the NIA collects a fee of P1,700 during the wet season and P2,550 during the dry season.