MANILA –Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Sunday said that he agrees with small farmers’ sentiment that big businessmen should be prevented from availing of free irrigation.
“Not everyone can avail himself of free irrigation service fees. For those who already have a lot of money, it would be like winning the lotto if they are not charged anything,” Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan made this remark in response to farmers request for the senator to craft a law that would disallow big businessmen from availing themselves of free irrigation and require them to pay fees.
The Cebu Provincial Federation of Irrigators’ Association earlier said that businessmen availing the irrigation services and facilities of the irrigators’ association should not be covered by the Irrigation Service Fee (ISF) Free Policy.
They said that the PHP2-billion recently allocated in the 2017 national budget for the government’s policy of free irrigation service fee is insufficient as it covers the big irrigation facilities and not the small ones like theirs.
In their manifesto, the farmers from Cebu said the law they are asking Pangilinan to sponsor for them should include a “provision for sufficient national budget for the communal irrigation system (CIS) subsidy for system rehabilitation, expansion, and institutional development.”
The same manifesto also called on the government to stop the “indiscriminate and rampant illegal conversion of prime agricultural rice lands.”
Pangilinan meanwhile introduced the farmers to his pet Sagip Saka bill, which requires local government units (LGUs) to buy their food needs for their feeding programs from farmers’ associations without any bidding.
His bill also gives incentives to private corporations that buy directly from farmers’ associations and donate tractors and other yield-raising equipment or facilities to them.
“Buying directly from farmers’ associations means that middlemen would be eliminated and wastage reduced. This means bigger incomes for farmers,” Pangilinan said.