Defying President Duterte

NIA Official blocks free irrigation

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Holdover officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) are involved in the sinister attempt to derail President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Free Irrigation Program for the Filipino rice farmers.I discovered this during the Dept. of Agriculture Budget hearing on Thursday, Aug. 25, when I found out that the additional P4-B intended to cover the Irrigation Service Fees was not included in the NIA budget for 2017.

When I found this out, I immediately manifested during the hearing my position as Agriculture Secretary that Free Irrigation is a commitment of President Duterte to the Filipino farmers and that is must fulfilled.

Luckily for the Filipino farmers, all of the Congressmen present during the hearing – administration, opposition and even the party list representatives – were all supportive of the Free Irrigation advocacy of the President.

After the Committee hearing, the DA officials and the other officials of the four agriculture-related agencies – NIA, National Food Authority, Phil. Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) – were invited to a caucus by Appropriations Committee vice chairperson Cong. Magnolia Antonino.

It was there when I realised that the opposition to the Free Irrigation Policy of the President came within the NIA itself, especially among officials who are holdovers from the previous administration, including the holdover administrator Florencio Padernal.

During the caucus, he just sat there looking like a boy who just committed a mischief, edgy and uncomfortable.

This was the same NIA administrator who earlier told me in a transition meeting that giving Free Irrigation Water to the Filipino rice farmers would be very difficult.

The NIA actually receives 60% of the total collection from the Irrigation Service Fees by the irrigators’ associations to pay for the salaries and wages of its employees.

Earlier, I proposed that the NIA charter be amended to bring it back to its old status as a service agency rather than a government corporation.

This proposal is supported by several house and senate bills but since it would still take some time before the amendment could be made, I proposed that an additional P4-B should be added to the NIA budget to cover the ISF collections for 2017.

This proposal was also supported by Senate Finance Committee Chairperson Loren Legarda who asked the Dept. of Budget and Management to allocate funds for the purpose.

Sen. Legarda said the President’s commitment of Free Irrigation must be fulfilled.

It is sad that there are some holdovers from the previous administration who still embrace the old thinking.

At the end of the caucus convened by Cong. Antonino, it was agreed that the Agri group will stand behind the commitment of the President to provide Free Irrigation to the Filipino rice farmers.

Sorry guys, evil will never triumph over good.

Free Irrigation will be implemented, thanks to the support of the Congressmen and the Senators.

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