Bawas utang! Congress expands ‘debt condonation’ program for small-scale farmers with up to 8-hectare land
Lawmakers have agreed to expand the proposed “debt condonation” and exemption program for irrigation service fees (ISFs) to cover more small farmers struggling to make ends meet.
Sen. Win Gatchalian on Wednesday said small farmers were now two steps closer to being completely exempted from paying hefty dues imposed by the NIA (National Irrigation Adiminstration) on its National Irrigation System and Communal Irrigation System.
“Our poor farmers will benefit the most if this law is passed,” said Gatchalian, co-author of the Senate version of the Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017 (SBN 1465).
The bicameral conference on Tuesday reconciled conflicting provisions between the Senate and House versions of the bill.
Under the reconciled bill, debts of small farmers with landholdings of eight hectares or below from unpaid ISFs, including past due accounts, interest, penalties, and loans, will be condoned by the government.
They will also be exempt from paying future irrigation fees. The version which originally passed the Senate limited this privilege to farmers with five hectares of land or less.
“I believe eight hectares is a fair compromise. As legislators, it is our duty to make sure all our local farmers have equitable access to opportunities and sustained productivity,” he said.
“We need to give more to our farmers who have less and are crippled by past dues,” Gatchalian said.