Monday, July 25, 2016

Free Irrigation Instructed by Pres. Duterte

Rice self-sufficiency has been the aim of every national administration since the founding of the Republic. But several factors militated against achieving the goal. These are:

1.    Decreasing land for rice planting due to land conversion
2.    Increasing population that outstrips rice production
3.    Geography

In terms of geography, the limited and decreasing land available for rice cultivation and planting is further exacerbated by the lack of natural irrigation.

Unlike Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos that benefits from the natural irrigation brought by the Mekong River Delta System, the Philippines does not have such a river system notwithstanding that it is an archipelago.

The countries mentioned above have three planting seasons because of the Mekong River Delta System. The Philippines, in order to have 2 planting relies heavily on man-made irrigation systems that the farmers pay for. This irrigation system is administered and maintained by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA). This further adds to the so called “farm inputs” that also raises the cost of production, making Philippine rice uncompetitive in the market and also cuts into the income of the farmers, thus making them economically disadvantaged.

The campaign promise of President Duterte to provide for free irrigation to rice farmers is one of the cornerstones of his agricultural program. The president has ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA) to initiate the provision of free irrigation according to Secretary Emmanuel Piñol of the DA. The marching order was given to the Secretary of the DA during the last Cabinet meeting.

“It’s a commitment to the farmers that we have to fulfill,” Piñol quoted President Duterte.

In order that free irrigation be institutionalized, it has to have a law behind it so as shield it from political decisions in the future.

The DA Secretary proceeded to get the support of Congress and the Senate for such a policy driven law. Support was given by Representatives Edcel Lagman and Joey Salceda and lawmakers from Leyte, Samar and from Central Mindanao.

He said as soon as he received “that clear directive,” he immediately talked with lawmakers and sought their support for a measure that would mandate free irrigation to poor farmers.

The Senate also supports the proposed law and support was acquired from Sen. Frank Drilon and Sen. Loren Legarda

The free irrigation bill in the senate will be filed by Sen. Cynthia Villar, the chairman of the senate Agriculture Committee. Support is also expected from senators Koko Pimentel, Francis Pangilinan, Manny Pacquiao and Alan Cayetano.

There are two ways that the free irrigation bill can be funded.

1.    Additional funding of Php4 billion to the NIA so that farmers no longer need top pay for irrigation.
2.    Amendment of the NIA charter so as to be it under the DA and no longer an independent Government Owned and Controlled Corporation.

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The Mail Man

Author & Editor - The Philippines' Web Magazine on Agriculture.

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