Press Release
July 30, 2016

Villar files bill providing free irrigation services to farmers

Farmers will finally see the day when they do not have to pay for irrigation services if Sen. Cynthia Villar's bill providing for free irrigation services will be enacted into law.

Senate Bill No. 140 or the Free Irrigation Reform and Restructuring Act of 2016 amends provisions of Republic Act No. 3601 prescribing the power and authority of the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) to collect Irrigation Service Fees (ISF) or other forms of charges for the use of irrigation systems.

"Given that farmers are among the country's poorest, the present system where farmers who could not pay are deprived of irrigation services is unfair. Their income is already small and ISF is an added expense that we should remove and in its place put a system where farmers are empowered to manage irrigation facilities," Villar said.

"In the wake of typhoons and drought that devastated farmlands, free irrigation service is the right step to revive the agriculture sector," she added.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol has expressed its commitment to provide free irrigation to farmers starting next year.

Villar, vice chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, said irrigation services is a vital government obligation to support the growth of Philippine economy, just like the network of roads being used for free.

"One of the most important components of a rice productivity program is irrigation. We want to improve the irrigation program to help our agricultural productivity and to address national food security concerns. If we free farmers from paying this unnecessary cost in production, agricultural products will be sold at lower prices," she added.

She noted that the proposed bill seeks to level the playing fields for Filipino farmers with the farmers of Thailand and Vietnam who are heavily subsidized by their governments.

Under the bill, NIA will be renamed as the National Irrigation Development Administration (NIDA) and converted from a government corporation into a line agency under the Department of Agriculture.

The existing NIA Board of Directors will be replaced by the Irrigation Planning and Advisory Board which will have the following functions, among others: To investigate, study and develop all available water resources in the country, primarily for irrigation purposes; to regularly monitor and evaluate NIDA's reports on the state of irrigation in the various regions of the country for all the major crop commodities in each region; to oversee, in cooperation with the Commission on Audit, the inventory of all NIA irrigation assets.

Within one year from the effectivity of this act, NIDA will complete its turn over to farmer groups all completed and inventoried irrigation projects, including those currently under rehabilitation. With professional help, the beneficiaries of such irrigation facilities and projects will manage the maintenance of the irrigation facilities.

Small communal irrigation system may be directly taken over by the farmers who are able to present management and maintenance plans for the sustainability of the irrigation projects.

To be eligible, all stakeholder beneficiaries will be required to complete a requisite set of trainings in farm enterprise management and irrigation management concepts prior to the transfer of the particular irrigation facility to their group.

The funding for the operation and maintenance of the irrigation facilities nationwide will be sourced out from the General Appropriations Act.

News Latest News Feed