NIA, Central Office - The Upper house, during its plenary session on October 10, approved the Php 40.8 billion budget of National Irrigation Administration for 2018.
NIA Chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya believed that the 6 percent increase in agency’s 2018 budget will pave way to build more irrigation infrastructures that will boost agricultural productivity of the country.
Bulk of the approved budget, or the Php 27.3 billion, will be for the restoration, repair, and rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems and construction and development of new irrigation systems.
Early September, the House of Representatives also gave its green light for the said budget.
Meanwhile, the Bicameral Committee panel sets clearer direction for the proposed free irrigation services act. The Congress and Senate, on October 10, agreed to settle differences on some provisions of the proposed law.
Senate Committee Chairperson on agriculture and food Senator Cynthia Villar admitted that there are disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 1465 (Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017) and House Bill 5670 (Free Irrigation Services Act).
Acting NIA Operations Manager Engr. Bayani Ofrecio, on one of free irrigation consultations, said that the house and senate bills differ on some provisions on condonation and corporate status of NIA.
“Sa Senate kasi ang sinasabi nila revocation of corporate status ng NIA together with its authority to contract foreign loans pero sa Congress wala naman sila binanggit kung GOCC pa rin ba ang NIA o line agency na”, he said.
But with the determination of both houses to reduce production cost, hasten productivity and increase the income of farmers, the committee has agreed to condone all unpaid irrigation fees and the corresponding penalties of small farmers with landholdings of eight (8) hectares or below to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).
The committee also decided to let a separate legislation address the issue on the status of NIA whether or not it will hold its identity as Government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC).
Present during the Bicam conference were Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Francis Pangilinan. The congress was represented by ANAC-IP Party List Rep. Jose Panganiban, Jr. together with Representatives Arthur Yap, Noel Villanueva, Ariel Casilao, Sharon Garin, Henry Oaminal, Jericho Nograles and Cecilia Leonila Chavez.