LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Cordillera office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-CAR) announced that farmers who are benefitting from the services of the various national irrigation systems located in the region must still pay their respective irrigation service fees (ISF) this year before the election promise of President Rodrigo Duterte for the free use of the irrigation systems will become effective next year.
Engr. John Socalo, NIA-CAR regional irrigation manager, said that no less than Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol made recent pronouncements over national radio appealing to the farmers to continue paying their obligations with the NIA this year in order to prevent the agency from being financially unstable.
He reiterated that the free use of the irrigation services by the farmers will only be effective next year, thus, the need for them to settle their outstanding obligations and their debt with the NIA so that the agency will not encounter problems when the said election promise comes into effect next year.
Under the current set up, farmers are obliged to pay three 50-kg cavans of rice for every hectare serviced bythe government’s irrigation facilities during the dry season and 2 cavans of rice for every hectare during the wet season as payment for the services of the government’sirrigation facilities while the water that comes from the watersheds is free.
“It is clear in the previous pronouncements of our national officials that the non-collection of the irrigation service fees will be effected next year. We will continuously dialogue with the farmers so that they will understand that they still have to pay their debts and outstanding obligations before availing of the free irrigation service fees next year,” Socalo stressed.
The NIA-CAR official revealed that the collection of irrigation service fees from farmers benefiting from the use of the different irrigation systems in the different parts of the country is enshrined in its Charter that is why the concerned agencies are still studying how to implement the free irrigation services to the farmers in the future.
It was learned that the NIA-CAR was able to collect an average of P40 million annually from 2012 to 2015 from irrigation service fees and back accounts of farmers using the Upper Chico river irrigation System (UCRIS) in Kalinga, the West Abulug Irrigation System (WAIS) in Luna and the Hapid Irrigation System in Ifugao.
He appealed to the farmers not to use the election promise of President Duterte to justify their non-payment of irrigation service fees as it was already clarified by top agriculture officials that their debts will be subjected to an interest of one percent per month or twelve percent per annum.
He said that NIA-CAR employees will still visit the houses of farmers who will be delinquent in the settlement of their obligations with the NIA to compel them to settle their debts the soonest.
By Dexter A, See