NIA: Free farm irrigation starts first crop this year

>> Thursday, March 16, 2017

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free irrigation service for farmers starts this first cropping season of crop year 2017.                                                                       
The National Irrigation Administration will no longer collect irrigation service fees (ISF) from farmers being served by national irrigation systems (NIS), as P2 billion was provided in the budget of NIA in the General Appropriations Act of 2017 or Republic Act 10924 as irrigation service fee subsidy. The NIA Board of Directors recently approved Resolution No. 8396-17 s. 2017 providing for the guidelines on free irrigation service fee.
Engineer John Socalo, NIA-Cordillera regional manager, said first crop in the Cordillera region is usually harvested April or May of every year in the NIS. 
In Upper Chico River Irrigation System (UCRIS) with service areas in Kalinga and Isabela, the first crop of 2017 was planted in November or December of 2016 and will be harvested this March until May.
This harvest will no longer be charged with ISF.
Aside from the termination of payment of ISF starting this first cropping season, the resolution also specifies that NIA will stop collecting amortization and equity payments from farmers or Irrigators’ Associations (IA).
Amortization and equity are cost recovery schemes availed by the IAs during the construction, rehabilitation, restoration and expansion of service areas of communal and small irrigation systems.
However, in projects with participation of local government units, equity requirement from concerned LGU will still be maintained.
Also, corporate farms, plantations, fishponds and other non-agricultural crop users using water or drainage facilities are not covered by the free irrigation service program and therefore will still be charged with corresponding ISF and/or drainage fees being imposed by NIA.
Socallo said even as collection of ISF for 2017 cropping seasons will now cease, all back accounts or unpaid ISF, amortization and equity payments before the affectivity of RA 10924 remain as liabilities of farmers and IAs.
NIA which may collaborate with the Office of the Solicitor General and Office of the Government for Corporate Counsel will still have to continue collection of such unpaid ISF and other liabilities.  
While irrigation service is now free, NIA shall continue to handle responsibilities in the operation and maintenance management for major facilities and structure such as dams, diversion works and main canals of large and medium national irrigation systems with areas of 3,000 hectares and above as these generally require technical knowhow.
Operation and maintenance of lateral and on-farm facilities and structures shall be transferred to the farmers through their respective IAs.
The UCRIS with service areas in Kalinga and Isabela, and the West ApayaoAbulug Irrigation System with service areas in Apayao and Cagayan are categorized as medium NISs.
For small NISs with service areas of less than 3,000 hectares as well as communal and pump irrigation systems, their management as well as operation and maintenance shall be completely transferred to duly organized and developed IAs. Most irrigation systems in the Cordilleras are categorized under communal irrigation systems.
Socalo said the NIA will carry on the provision of technical support to the IAs in the planning, construction, restoration and rehabilitation of these irrigation systems.

Also, the agency will continue to provide capability building programs and training to sustain IA functionality.  -- NIA-CAR 


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