Gatchalian tells government to condone P13B irrigation fees
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian called on government to condone P13 billion in outstanding irrigation service fees (ISFs) owned by farmers and farming cooperatives to the National Irrigation Authority (NIA).
Gatchalian also proposed that NIA stop collecting ISFs, which he said further reduced the meager monthly income of small farmers and added to their expenses.
“Irrigation is a key factor in increasing agricultural productivity, rice sufficiency and food security. It should be the obligation of the State to provide free irrigation services,”
Gatchalian said in the explanatory note of Senate Bill No. 1412, which proposes the repeal of the provision in the NIA charter that authorized the agency to charge and collect irrigation fees from users.
The average ISF rate charged to farmers during the dry season is 3 cavans per hectare per year times the prevailing National Food Authority (NFA) price for rice per kilo, and 2.5 cavans per hectare per hear during the wet season.
The NIA collects the ISFs for yields of 40 cavans and above. The fund is used to cover the cost of operation and maintenance and to recover the cost of construction of irrigation systems nationwide.
Gatchalian said the payment of unpaid ISF arrears should be stopped, adding that a P2 billion subsidy in irrigation fees has been added to the 2017 budget of the NIA to cover the fees to be collected this year.