Free irrigation law signed
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill giving free irrigation to lower the cost of production of farmers.
Republic Act No. 10969, also known as the "Free Irrigation Service Act," was signed on Feb. 2, 2018. Free irrigation was one of Duterte's campaign promises.
Under the law, not all farmers using irrigation could avail of the free service.
"Upon the effectivity of this Act, all farmers with landholdings of eight (8) hectares and below are hereby exempted from paying irrigation service fees (ISF) for water derived from national irrigation system (NIS) and communal irrigation systems (CIS) that were, or are to be, funded, constructed, maintained and administered by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and other government agencies, including those that have been turned over to irrigators associations (IAs)," the law read.
Farmers with more than eight hectares of land, corporate farms, and plantations drawing water for agricultural crop production; and fishponds and other persons, natural or juridical, drawing water for non-agricultural purposes from NIS and CIS, or using the irrigation systems as drainage facilities, shall continue to be subject to the payment of ISF.
All unpaid ISF and the corresponding penalties of farmers with eight hectares and below to NIA, and all loans, past due accounts and the corresponding interests and penalties of IAs to NIA are also condoned and written off from the books of NIA.
The NIA will continue to develop, operate and maintain NIS.
The agency may delegate the operation and maintenance of secondary and tertiary canals and farm ditches to capable IAs.
"The NIA shall provide the equivalent funds for the O and M ( operation and maintenance) of these facilities," the Act said.
The amounts necessary for the implementation of the new law shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.
The Act shall take effect after 15 days from its publication in the Official Gazette or in two newspapers of general circulation.
Under the law, factors considered in setting the irrigation service fees are the system's scheme of development (run-off-the-river, reservoir and pump), crops planted, and season.
These are denominated in kind, in cavans of palay (paddy) per hectare. One cavan is equal to 50 kilos per hectare. Rates for pump systems are higher as the cost of power for pump operation is included in the computation.
Pina Bermudez, NIA spokesperson, said in a text message to the Daily Manila Shimbun, the agency's average collection from irrigation service fees is two billion pesos. Celerina Monte/DMS