“Quality and free irrigation service, that is part of a comprehensive and accelerated irrigation development program, will contribute to the advancement of local agriculture.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — On December 13, 2017, Congress ratified the consolidation of Senate (Senate Bill No. 1465) and House of Representatives (House Bill No. 5670) versions of the Free Irrigation Bill. The Senate and the House of Representatives approved its versions up to the third reading in June and July 2017, respectively.
In the final and consolidated version, free irrigation will be provided for farms covering eight hectares and below.
“Quality and free irrigation service, that is part of a comprehensive and accelerated irrigation development program, will contribute to the advancement of local agriculture as this is expected to: 1) increase our output in rice and corn production; 2) be a factor in achieving our targets for rice self-sufficiency in the long-term, and 3) aid in the overall growth of the rural economy towards genuine rural and national industrialization,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Chairperson Danilo Ramos.
Free irrigation was one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promises, and has been the subject of a long history of mass campaigns, lobbying, and the unity of farmers. However, instead of prioritizing pro-people legislations and services, Ramos explained that Duterte chose to fast track the enactment of oppressive and anti-people laws such as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), which will undoubtedly affect farmers in terms of increased production costs.
“The additional excise tax on petroleum products ranging from PhP 3.00 to PhP 7.00 per liter will directly impact the agricultural production cost as farmers and agricultural producers use diesoline and gasoline in every process of production from land preparation, planting, harvesting, post-harvest and transportation,” KMP Secretary General Antonio Flores explained.
“Most farm equipment used by farmers run on gas and diesel including deep-well for irrigation, hand tractors, threshers, drying facilities and milling,” he added.
Likewise, KMP calls for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to spearhead initiatives for free irrigation. Should the measure be signed into law, NIA should also be fully accountable for its faithful execution.
“With regards to NIA, we have seen, in the past year, clear instances of dillydallying if not outright sabotage in the implementation of a policy on free irrigation despite very early promises by the Department of Agriculture last year that effective January 2017, free irrigation will finally be enjoyed by Filipino farmers. This 2018, we expect irrigation service to be entirely free for farmers,” Ramos explained.