LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Farmers benefitting from the various national and communal irrigation systems being maintained by the government must still continue paying their respective service fees because there are no guidelines on how to implement the free irrigation of the Duterte administration, an official of the Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR) said here recently.
Engr. John Socalo, NIA-CAR regional irrigation manager, said the number of farmers voluntarily paying their service fees to the different provincial irrigation offices had drastically decreased since President Rodrigo Duterte announced that his administration will embark on free irrigation to help improve the income of farmers, especially in the remote areas of the country.
“We are already encountering difficulty in collecting the service fees from our farmers because they always reason out that they no longer need to pay because of the pronouncements of the President,” Socalo stressed.
The NIA-CAR official claimed concerned officials and employees on the field are continuously trying their best to convince farmers to pay their irrigation fees on time to prevent the accumulation of their obligations with the agency because what will be free will be the service fees in the coming years after the promulgation of the guidelines, thus, the free irrigation will not be retroactive.
According to him, the agency will continue to collect from the famers whatever will be their accumulated debt even with the implementation of the free irrigation unless provided in the guidelines to be crafted that previous service fees will be condoned.
He underscored the basis of implementing the free irrigation to our farmers will be the guidelines to be promulgated for the purpose so that agency officials and employees will be fully aware of what to do to implement the rules in favour of the farmers.
Socalo appealed to the farmers not to be offended when NIA personnel will be reminding them to pay their service fees because the free irrigation does not cover the services rendered for this year; free irrigation for the farmers will start next year.
He said NIA officials and employees are just doing their job to collect from the farmers the prescribed irrigation service fees to be used for the operation and maintenance of the various irrigation systems providing water supply to sustain their production, thus, the need for utmost cooperation with them to help guarantee improved services.
NIA-CAR has been reporting around 60-65 percent collection efficiency annually in service fees from farmers benefitting from the operation of the Hapid irrigation system in Ifugao, the Upper Chico River Irrigation System (UCRIS) in Tabuk City, Kalinga and the West Abulug irrigation system based in Apayao among others.
Socalo appealed to farmers to be religious in the payment of their irrigation service fees while awaiting the promulgation of the rules for the free irrigation.