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DA bats for free irrigation

Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Manny Piñol foresees no trouble when it comes to the passage of a bill that will provide free irrigation to farmers.

Piñol said senator Cynthia Villar has already filed Senate Bill 34 that proposes a six-year accelerated irrigation program.

Among those Piñol believes will support the measure include pro-agriculture legislators Aquilino Pimentel III who was recently elected as Senate President, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Senator Manny Pacquiao, and Senator Francis Pangilinan.

Piñol said it is imperative for the government to include in its 2017 national budget an allocation of about R4 billion to fund the existence of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and stop the agency’s practice of collecting irrigation fees from farmers.

“This is the most ridiculous situation in Philippine agriculture where it is the farmers who are being made to pay for the salaries and wages of a government entity mandated to provide them with water so that they could produce food for the country,” Piñol said.

Piñol is also leaning on the support of senators Loren Legarda and Franklin Drilon who is one of the proponents of the Jalaur River Irrigation Project.

Piñol meantime is also hopeful that the proposal will not be just a political decision of the president but also a government policy that will “acknowledge and reward the sacrifices of the sunburned heroes who produce food for this country.” (Ellalyn B. de Vera)