Sen. Marcos bats for free irrigation service to farmers; urges NIA to condone P12b debt
Bersyon sa Filipino.
Amid the recent series of typhoons and floods that devastated farm lands, and the continuing threat of drought next year due to El Nino, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. urged the government to provide free irrigation service to our farmers to revive our agriculture sector.
Speaking at the Christmas party of BUTIL party list in Nueva Ecija yesterday, Marcos also said the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) should condone over P12 billion in outstanding debt of irrigators and farmers’ associations.
Marcos, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Works recalled that he broached the proposal to NIA officials during one of the hearings of his committee on his bill meant to improve the country’s irrigation system.
“I told them, why are you charging fees for the use of the irrigation system? You should not do this because this is supposed to be a service that our government should provide our farmers to help them,” Marcos said.
NIA officials insisted they need the fund from irrigation fees for the construction of new irrigation systems and the rehabilitation of existing ones. They told the committee that the outstanding irrigation fee debt has amounted to around P12 billion.
“I advised them to forget about it. Where do they expect the farmers to get that amount of money?” Marcos recommended.
The Senator said NIA should find alternative ways to provide funding for the construction and improvement of the country’s irrigation system.
“I challenged NIA officials to visit the farmers to find out how they manage to earn living from their farms and tell me if they really have the capacity to pay those irrigation fees,” Marcos said. He noted that around 70 percent of the country’s poor belong to the agricultural sector.
Marcos, who is a candidate for Vice President in the 2016 polls, has pushed for increased government support to the agriculture sector, which has been in continuous decline in the past few years.
He believes a healthy agriculture sector is an essential foundation of the country’s economic growth.