LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR) disclosed back accounts of farmers benefitting from the irrigation provided by the various national irrigation systems in the region do not form part of the free irrigation service fees implemented by the national government starting next year.
Engr. John Socalo, NIA-CAR regional irrigation manager, said the premature announcement by some government officials in the implementation of the free irrigation service fees for famers next year have created more problems on their part because it gave the farmers an excuse not to pay their obligations to the agency this year.
However, the NIA-CAR official underscored the agency will still collect the back accounts to increase the available funds for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the irrigation systems for efficient and effective service.
“We will still collect the back accounts of farmers because we have to clean our records, thus, we appeal to the farmers to voluntarily settle their back accounts with the nearest provincial irrigation office to clear their names from being indebted with the agency,” Socalo stressed.
While it is true that the free irrigation service will be implemented next year, Socalo pointed there is still a need for Congress to approve the necessary amendments to the law that allowed the collection of irrigation service fees because it is Congress that is empowered to amend the law for the benefit of the farmers.
According to him, the agency’s collection efficiency of 60 to 70 percent annually only indicates that there are numerous farmer-beneficiaries of the various irrigation systems who do not promptly pay their obligations with the agency despite them being able to harvest and subsequently market their produce from their farms serviced by the agency.
Socalo claimed it is unfortunate many farmers evade paying their obligations to the government after benefitting from the government’s irrigation systems and the free irrigation service should not be a license for their exemption from the settlement of their obligations.
NIA-CAR operates the Kalinga-based Upper Chico River Irrigation System (UCRIS), the Ifugao-based Hapid Irrigation System and the Apayao-based West Abulug Irrigation System (WAIS) aside from maintaining various communal irrigation systems regionwide.
Socalo called on farmers to voluntarily settle their obligations with the agency.