By Mortz C. Ortigoza
URDANETA CITY – The regional manager of the National Irrigation Administration wants the irrigation fees paid by farmers’ annulled, just like what the members of a senate committee had done recently.
FARM INPUTS. Region 1 Regional Manager John Celeste (2nd from left) of the National Irrigation
Administration, San Fabian Mayor Constante B. Agbayane (3rd from left), and stake holders meet
recently for a meeting to discuss the provisions on farm inputs to be used by the farmers during the
duration of the program.
Region 1 Regional Manager John Celeste, who is based here, desires an Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR) for the exclusion of farmers to pay next year the Irrigation Service Fees (ISF) after the bill filed by Senator Cynthia Villar concerning the exclusion becomes a law.
Celeste wants to see how the IRR governs the owners of small and big tracts of land since he wanted that small landowners should be excluded for the ISF while big land owners continue to pay it.
The powerful Senate Finance Committee recently included P4 billion in the General Appropriations Act of 2017 to cover the ISF collected by the NIA from the farmers all over the country.
Celeste said that for this year the NIA would be collecting P1.8 billion for the ISF nationwide while his office, that oversees four provinces, collects from the farmers P100 million for this irrigation fees.
Senator Legarda told Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, in a recent senate hearing, that she and her colleagues Committee’s vice chairman Senator Cynthia Villar and members’ Senators Ralph Recto, JV Ejercito, Francis Pangilinan, Miguel Zubiri and Risa Hontiveros supported the revocation of the ISF that burdened the 2.5 million rice farming families.
Celeste cited that 60 percent of the P1.8 billion ISF collection this year goes for the salaries and wages of NIA’s officials and employees while 40 percent goes to the irrigators’ associations.
He said the P4 billion appropriation by the Senate would be for the repair, construction of canals, drainage, and others.
Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said it was only right for the government to subsidize the irrigation services to ease the burden of the farmers.
He cited Vietnam that does not bill her farmers on irrigation service thus a comparative advantage for her to sell rice in the global market.
Rice producing Thailand has similar policy with Vietnam.
In a news article written by Agriculture Secretary Pinol, he disclosed that the irrigation fees had seriously affected the profitability of Filipino farmers as the cost of water services is estimated at P3 for every kilo of palay they produced.
Oftociano “Anong” Manalo, president of the Federation of Irrigators Association of Region I, cited that a farmer pays an equivalent of five cavans of palay for the ISF per cropping during dry season and three cavans of palay per cropping during wet season or P3,150 (45 kilos at P17 per kilo) and P2,295, respectively