PRESIDENT Duterte has signed into law a bill that reflects the government’s genuine concern over the welfare of farmers, who comprise the bulk of the nation’s more than 100 million population.
A welcome development in this poverty-stricken but natural resources-rich Southeast Asian country, the implementation of the Free Irrigation Service Act will give the agriculture sector a boost.
This the new law will do by providing free irrigation to local farmers as promised in 2016 by then presidential candidate Duterte.
The measure resulted from the harmonization of Senate Bill No. 1465 (Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers) and House Bill (HB) No. 5670 (Free Irrigation Service Act). HB No. 5670 was authored mainly by Rep. Karlo Nograles of Davao City.
“We laud President Duterte for making free irrigation a reality…With this law in place, the NIA (National Irrigation Administration) will no longer collect irrigation fees from farmers,” said Nograles.
Nograles, a Mindanaoan like President Duterte, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, is chairman of the powerful House committee on appropriations.
“This act will definitely jumpstart the modernization of Philippine agriculture and, more importantly, unlock endless earning opportunities for our farmers,” according to Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles.
A study conducted by the Dutch multinational banking and financial services firm Rabobank showed that the Philippines is a net importer of agricultural products, meaning it imports more than it exports.
Note that the local agriculture sector has always been robust, it continues to be hampered by low productivity due to a variety of factors, including the inability of many farmers to irrigate their lands due to poverty.
Thus, we cannot overemphasize the importance of the newly-signed Free Irrigation Service Act, which is expected to increase productivity in the country’s agriculture sector.