Piñol starts seeking support from legislators for free irrigation
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has started discussions with senators to seek support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free irrigation for farmers.
Piñol has met with congressmen from Bicol, Leyte, Samar, SOCSKSARGEN as well as with senators and he said they are supportive of the move.
“It’s a commitment to the farmers that we have to fulfil,” Piñol quoted President Duterte as saying during last Monday’s cabinet meeting.
Free irrigation for farmers can be pursued on two tracks: one is by providing the budget for it in the General Appropriations Act and the other is by amending the charter of the National Irrigation Administration so that it can revert back to its old status as a line agency of government instead of being a government corporation.
Piñol said free irrigation can be more immediately realized “by providing for an additional P4 billion funding to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in the 2017 National Budget so that it will no longer depend on the collections from irrigation fees of farmers for the salaries of its officials and employees and for its operations.”
“This is the most ridiculous situation in Philippine agriculture where it is the farmers who are being made to pay for the salaries and wages of a government entity which is tasked for provide them with water so that they could produce food for the country,” he added.
Piñol said amending the charter of the NIA and turning it back into a line agency will take a longer time as some economic managers and advocates of a government corporate culture concept will likely oppose the move.
Even then, Piñol said amending the NIA charter “should be pursued so that in the future, providing free irrigation water to the Filipino farmers will no longer be just a political decision of a President who cares for the poor but a policy of government which knows how to acknowledge and reward the sacrifices of the sunburned heroes who produce for this country.”