Free irrigation services benefit Cordillera farmers

FARMERS in the Cordillera region continue to receive free irrigation services from the National Irrigation Administration despite the delay in payment of fees amounting to P400 million from 1984 to 2017.

Engineer Noly Sabado of the Kalinga Head Operation and Maintenance Section said the free irrigation service fee covered the first cropping season in the region from December 2016 to May 2017.

The Upper Chico Irrigation System (Ucris) in Kalinga and Isabela, which covers 15,602 hectares, is among the three national irrigation systems under the responsibility of NIA-Cordillera.

Others are the West Apayao Abulug Irrigation System (WAAIS) with 4,882 hectares in Apayao and Cagayan and the Hapid Irrigation system with 2,423 hectares in Lamut, Ifugao.

NIA is mandated to collect fees from farmers under the Republic Act No. 3601. The collection of ISF in 2017 cropping seasons was stopped with the inclusion of the irrigation fee subsidy in the 2017 budget.

All delinquent accounts prior to the effectivity of the budget, however, which provides a P3.35-trillion allocation okayed by President Rodrigo Duterte, remain as liabilities.

A new law, the Free Irrigation Service Act, now exempts from paying fees those farmers with lands of up to 8 hectares.

Read: New law provides free irrigation to farmers with 8-hectare land

Kalinga Federation Irrigators Association Head Engineer Teddy Kob-ao said previously, farmers pay P2,500 per hectare for dry season and P1,700 per hectare during wet season.

Apayao Federation Irrigators Association president and Apayao Vice – Governor Remy Albano said a total of 94 groups benefit from the WAAIS composed of some 10,000 farmers.

"Simula 1997, the sole establishment of federation were made all throughout the regions from regional to national federation irrigators association for we want to have a free ISF considering farmers are the direct producers of food," said Albano.
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