An act creating a streamlined national irrigation development program, abolishing the irrigation service fees, renaming the national irrigation administration to the national irrigation development administration.
In a report on the state of Philippine agriculture, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture said that the programs of the department for this new administration will focus on (1) staple food commodities to ensure food security and (2) high value crops to generate jobs and foreign earnings. To quote the report, "to achieve food sufficiency and maximum productivity in the country, the Department of Agriculture under President Rody Duterte must undertake the implementation of the basic foundations of a sound agriculture and fisheries program." At the core of this national program is the Rice Productivity Enhancement (RIPE) program which calls for a thorough review of the country’s water management and irrigation policies, among others. There is thus a need to revisit the irrigation component in our agricultural sector.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) was created by law in 1963
principally to address the needs of the irrigation age and to investigate and study all
available and possible water resources in the Philippines, primarily for irrigation
purposes, to plan, design, construct and/or improve all types of irrigation projects
and appurtenant structures (Section 2, RA 3601, as amended by P.D. 552 and P.D.
1702). For this purpose, the NIA has been given the necessary flexibility of a
corporate vehicle and the administrative autonomy to achieve its statutory objectives.
Despite this, about 2.4 million hectares or 43% of farm lands in the Philippines
still lack irrigation. The country needs to put equal weight to more streamlined,
community-based, small-scale, yet far-reaching irrigation development program that
can be done here and now and this bill provides the impetus for this goal.
This measure therefore proposes to refocus the direction, role and function of
the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) towards the effective development and
construction of irrigation systems. The NIA shall be renamed National Irrigation
Development Administration (NIDA) and converted into a line agency of the
Department of Agriculture. It shall focus on the following as described in the Act:
National Irrigation Program, Streamlined Irrigation Development Program and
Continuing Research and Development. This includes the reformulation and
upgrading of irrigation methods through continued research, development and
application of technological advancements in order to make irrigation sustainable,
environment friendly and cost effective.
The proposed refocusing of NlA’s role and purpose further seeks to foster
sustainable livelihood among its farmers though improvement in both farm
productivity and increased income by abolishing existing laws prescribing the power
and authority of the NIA to collect Irrigation Service Fees (ISF) or other forms of
charges for the use of irrigation systems. At the same time, it also intends to make
the farmer-stakeholders accountable and effective partners in the maintenance of
the irrigation facilities by providing them with adequate technical assistance.
In view of the importance of the iirigation in agricultural productivity, food
security and livelihood, the passage of this bill is earnestly sought.
LUIS RAYMUND F. VILLAFUERTE, JR.