By Mario Casayuran
Senator Loren Legarda said Friday her Senate finance committee has ensured adequate funding for the agricultural sector of the country under the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion national budget.
This includes funding for free irrigation for small-scale farmers to help them prepare and cope with the expected full blast of El Niño, a natural phenomenon that spells a long hot summer, in the coming months, Legarda said.
“This will be a big boost for the agriculture sector as we have unburdened our small farmers, who are among the poorest of the poor even if they are the ones who feed the nation,” she stressed.
According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomic Administration (PAGASA), the country is already experiencing dry spell and drought in several provinces and is expecting below normal rainfall in the coming months.
With the help of the Free Irrigation Service Act (Republic Act No. 10969), which Legarda co-authored, small farmers will be exempted from paying irrigation service fees (ISF) for water derived from irrigation systems under the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
“Even before the enactment of this law, the government has already subsidized irrigation service fees being paid by small farmers to the NIA through our intervention in the General Appropriations Act (GAA),” she said.
Legarda pointed out the consistent allotment of funds for small farmers which amounted to P2.6 million in 2018 and is given the same amount in 2019.
This funding covers the irrigation service which is subsidized by the government to support the small-scale farmers. Aside from that, there is also a P2.114 billion allocated to subsidize other operations of the farmers.
“We hope that this law will be implemented efficiently so we can achieve food security, encourage more citizens to engage in or go back to farming, and improve the income of our small farmers,” Legarda explained.