Villar: Senate to approve free irrigation for farmers by year end

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) — A bill that waives farmers from irrigation fees is poised to be passed in the Senate before the year ends, one of its authors said on Thursday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed confidence that through the Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017, government would be able to financially support farmers' irrigation fees by next year.

When asked if the bill could be passed by the end of 2017, Villar said, "I think we will be able [to]. It's an important bill, so we'll take care of that."

Also known as Senate Bill 1465, the proposal was submitted to the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Food and Finance on Monday. The bill substituted seven earlier proposals and was also co-authored by Senators Ping Lacson, Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri, JV Ejercito, Loren Legarda, Joel Villanueva, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Richard Gordon.

 

Farmers with more than five hectares of land and corporate farms, as well as ponds which draw water for non-agricultural purposes, are not covered by the bill.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Food approved a counterpart measure on March which consolidated 29 bills on free irrigation.

In the 2017 budget, Congress approved P2 billion in irrigation fees for small farmers, a measure that the Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act seeks to make regular.

"In 2018, we want it to be legislated, so it's permanent - so we don't have to insert it in the budget every year," said Villar.

The fees are expected to go to the National Irrigation Administration, which constructs and maintains national and communal irrigation systems from which farmers draw water.

She broke down the figure to "1.75 billion for the maintenance of the major national irrigation, and then the 250 [million] is given to the Irrigators' Association to maintain the tertiary and the secondary irrigation facilities."