The new irrigation law will benefit farmers because it will lessen their production cost, a consultant of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said Tuesday.
Bayani Ofrecio, the consultant to the NIA deputy administrator, said Republic Act 10969 or the “Free Irrigation Service Act (FISA)” which was signed in February last year by President Rodrigo Duterte exempts farmers with landholdings of eight hectares and below from paying irrigation service fees (ISF).
“Yong benefit talaga ng libreng irrigation kasi makakabawas ‘yan sa cost of production. Basically, malaki rin na amount ang masa-save ng farmer kung ang irrigation ay libre na. Ang estimate namin is something like P5,000 a year ang cost ng irrigation per hectare,” he said.
Ofrecio said this while orienting 150 presidents of irrigation associations in Palawan.
He said the NIA will continue to give technical assistance to farmers as well as help link them to other government agencies for various services they need like loans and crop insurance.
Under the new law, a farmer must not exceed eight hectares of registered land to be exempted.
The past debts of farmers are considered condoned, he also said.
“According to the Civil Code, ito ay gratuitous, ibig sabihin, i-accept mo muna yong utang mo, then saka mo siya iri-request na ma-condone and finally it will be written off from the books,” he pointed out.
Farmers with more than eight hectares and corporate farms will still be charged the ISF because they are for profit, Ofrocio said.
Although fish ponds are contributing to agricultural productivity, he said, they are also not exempted from the ISF as irrigation systems were designed particularly for farming consumption.
“Yong mga fish ponds, while they are also contributing to the agricultural productivity, kaya natin sila sisingilin, the irrigation systems were designed for farming not for fish ponds,” he said.
He added that the law also focuses on irrigation management by farmer groups and the operation of nationally-assisted facilities because they will be given incentives.
Farmers who are not registered may request the NIA for their inclusion upon presentation of verified proof of the size of landholdings, which must be approved by an authorized irrigation official.
He said farmers who own 10 hectares of land but have distributed among their children “must be officially segregated for separate land titles to make them qualified for exemption.”
“O sige, ‘yang mga lupa mo, ibigay mo sa akin, uupahan ko and magto-total ng more than eight… exempted ka kasi we are talking of owned landholdings kaya ‘yon ang nangyayari na ‘yong ibang tao ay ‘yong effort nila to evade ‘yong kwan… (inaudible) instead of procuring nila ang lupa, nirerentahan na lang nila,” he said.