This refers to the article “Promote fairness in free irrigation” which came out June 13 in your newspaper.
The article quoted the statements from the National Confederation of Irrigators Association urging Senator Cynthia Villar to “set an exemption in the provision of free irrigation service.”
Please be informed that the bill sponsored by Senator Villar, Senate Bill 1465 under Committee Report 103 or the “Free Irrigation Service to Small farmers act of 2017” exempts small farmers —those whose combined farm-holdings cover an area of not more than five hectares—from paying the irrigation service fees.
In coming up with five hectares, the Asian Development Bank and World Bank poverty thresholds were considered.
Unpaid irrigation fees shall be collected and will be for the account of the National Government.
Our farmers are already reaping the benefits of free irrigation with the inclusion of P2 billion in the 2017 national budget to cover the ISF being collected from farmers, but Senator Villar sees the need to legislate free irrigation to make it permanent.
The bill, which enjoys the overwhelming support of senators, was passed on second reading last May 31 and will automatically pass third reading after three days based on Senate rules. The bill will be formally passed on third reading when sessions resume in July for the second regular session of the 17th Congress.
As chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food, Senator Villar has been guided by the fact that Filipino farmers and fishermen are still among the poorest in the country and there is a need to immediately implement policies and programs to help them improve productivity and income.
The enactment of a law freeing small farmers from the burden of paying irrigation service fees will significantly reduce production cost, hasten productivity and increase the income of farmers.
Office of Senator Cynthia Villar