LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR) wants farmers to timely pay their accumulated debts in terms of unpaid irrigation fees before their supply of irrigation water will be cut off.
Engr. John Socalo, NIA-CAR Regional Irrigation Manager, said the agency’s collection efficiency which is pegged at 62 percent is still considered as low although efforts are now being done in order to compel all beneficiaries of irrigation services to immediately settle their obligation with the agency before they will spend their sales from the palay they have harvested.
“We have to closely monitor the activities of farmers being serviced by our national irrigation systems so that we will be able to collect their irrigation fees on time so that they will still have money to pay us,” Socalo stressed.
Aside from assigning personnel to go house to house once NIA-CAR has learned that the farmers were able to harvest their crops and were able to sell them to traders or to the National Food Authority (NFA), he added demand letters are also being sent out to erring farmers who are delinquent in the payment of their irrigation fees so that the agency will be able to collect necessary fees to sustain their operations.
Under their agreement with NIA, farmers who will be provided with sustainable supply of irrigation water by the different national irrigation systems are obliged to pay the equivalent of three sacks per cropping season for their harvest during the wet cropping season or its cash equivalent, or two cavans of rice or its cash equivalent for their harvest during the dry cropping season.
For those with skyrocketing financial obligations with the agency, Socalo disclosed collection cases are filed against them in order for them to be compelled to settle their obligations.
“It is the obligation of our farmers, being responsible citizens, to voluntarily pay their obligations with the NIA-CAR. We are disappointed over the way they act by trying to first evade paying their irrigation fees and if they could do so, try to get away from it which is to the disadvantage to the operations of the agency,” Socalo said.
He cited farmers should understand that the fees they are collecting from them are also being brought back to them in the form of improved services of the irrigation systems so that more farmlands will be irrigated even during prolonged drought.
According to him, voluntary payment of irrigation services among farmers are rated to be at least 40 percent, the issuance of demand letters also account for 40 percent while the mandatory filing of collection cases account for at least 20 percent of the agency’s overall collection performance.
He claimed part of the programs of the agency is to continue to expand the service areas of the different irrigation systems so that it will be able to cater to more rice and non-rice producing areas in the different provinces in the region in the coming months. NIA-CAR operates communal and national irrigation systems in Abra, Benguet, Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province. The national irrigation systems which are located in Ifugao, Kalinga, Quezon, Isabela and Apayao, provide irrigation services to more than 1,000 hectares while communal systems provide services to areas less than 1,000 hectares. By Dexter A. See