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Free irrigation eyed in 2017

11 October 2016 No CommentEmail This Post Email This Post

By Leslie D. Venzon

MANILA  (PNA) – The Duterte administration’s plan to provide free irrigation services to increase productivity and lower rice prices may be realized next year, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Piñol said on Wednesday.

Piñol told reporters that Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, has assured that an additional PHP4 billion will be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2017 to implement free irrigation for Filipino farmers.

“The PHP4 billion will cover the expected SIF (irrigation service fees) collection which is being used by NIA (National Irrigation Administration) to pay for the salaries and wages of its employees,” he said.

NIA is using ISF collections to maintain and operate the different irrigation systems in the country.

With free irrigation, Piñol expects the cost of production of rice farmers to lower by PHP3 per kilo, which he believes will “make them at least a little bit competitive.”

He estimated that rice prices can drop by PHP7 per kilo with DA’s distribution of good seeds and sufficient fertilizers alone.

The Agriculture chief considers the free irrigation program “historic,” noting it is a realization of the commitment of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“…A President who believes that just like the travellers who use the highway for free, the Filipino farmers who produce food for this country should also be allowed to use for free the water services and irrigation services,” Piñol added.

Meanwhile, Legarda, during the hearing on the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, hoped that the free irrigation could be done if the DA could use its remaining unobligated funds under the 2015 budget.

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