Piñol urged to give free irrigation to farmers

Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda and Vice Governor Dennis Pineda on Monday presented to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol a resolution urging the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to give free irrigation to farmers in Pampanga and to condone any debts they owe to the agency.

The governor and the vice governor gave Secretary Piñol a copy of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s Resolution No. 4370 during an open forum in the First Kakao Konek Congress held at the Heroes Hall in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga.

The resolution “urges the National Irrigation Administration to waive the payment of irrigation service fees imposed against farmers in the province of Pampanga who are using the agency’s irrigation facilities and to condone arrearages thereof.”

These are the clamor of low income farmers in the province, the legislative board said.

At least 87 farmers associations in the province asked the vice governor last July 26 to air their demands to the NIA. The provincial government had paid the 10-percent counterpart to a project of the Department of Agriculture, enabling the farmers’ groups to receive seven mini-tractors, 12 hand tractors, four rice transplanter, six rice reapers, a combine harvester and 51 shallow tube wells.

“Relative thereto, NIA Administrator Florencio F. Padernal intimated that the NIA is not against the abolition of the irrigation service fees being collected from farmers who are using the agency’s irrigation systems and that he has created a group to study different irrigation good practices from neighboring countries to come up with a comprehensive approach on the instant matter,” stated part of the resolution signed by Governor Pineda on Aug. 1.

“The advocates for the abolition of irrigation services fees pointed out that the said imposition is an extra financial financial burden on the part of our farmers that the government may subsidize to ease out the sad plight of our farmers for the SP finds the instant proposition appropriate for the purpose deserving favorable consideration,” it added.

Vice Governor Pineda told Secretary Piñol that the provincial government can provide a counterpart by lending equipment such as backhoes and payloaders for the maintenance of irrigation canals.

“While the national government subsidizes free irrigation, we in the provincial government can set aside a budget yearly to assist in the maintenance of NIA’s irrigation canals,” the vice governor said.

Secretary Piñol praised the Pampanga provincial government for its proposal to provide counterpart, adding it was the first local government in the country to do so.

To subsidize irrigation, Secretary Piñol said he has asked the Senate to give NIA an additional P4-billion budget next year. To ensure that the subsidy is long-term, he said the NIA charter has to be amended, making it a line agency of the DA than a government corporation.