Lacson Bill Exempts Farmers from Paying Irrigation Service Fees

Good news for farmers: They may no longer have to pay for irrigation fees as the government will shoulder the costs, once a bill filed by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson is passed into law.

Lacson’s Senate Bill 43, dubbed the “Free Irrigation Services Act,” is one of his legislative priorities in the 17th Congress, and seeks to help many farmers still recovering from droughts caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

“Irrigation is a very basic governmental function that can very easily be shouldered by the State. It does not have to be passed on to farmers. Considering that it is a key factor in increasing agricultural productivity, having the State subsidize it will go a long way in ensuring adequate food supply and the early recovery of the principal means of livelihood of people in disaster-hit and poverty-stricken areas. Thus, it is the intention of this bill to revoke the ISF (Irrigation Service Fees) and to make irrigation services free for all farmers,” he said.

Related: Mga magsasaka, libre at unli ang patubig sa Lacson bill

[Download: Senate Bill 43, Free Irrigation Services Act]

“The State shall provide the necessary subsidies to farmers and irrigators associations and cooperatives to ensure the effective and grassroots-based management of irrigation systems, the funding of which shall likewise be included in the annual General Appropriations Act,” he added.

Under Republic Act 3601, the NIA can collect from users of irrigation systems “to finance the continuous operation of the system and to reimburse within a certain period not less than 25 years the cost of construction thereof.” The NIA’s ISF covers those who use its national systems.

Lacson noted ISFs were abolished by then President Joseph Estrada when he delivered his first State of the Nation Address in 1998, but were reinstated when NIA sought the adoption of a socialized irrigation fee system.

Yet, the ISFs are occasionally suspended, particularly in times of calamities when it was unreasonable to impose additional fees on farmers.

The proposed act effectively repeals:

– Section 2(c) of Republic Act 3601
– Section 1(b) of Presidential Decree 552
– Section 1(b) of Presidential Decree 1702

On the other hand, funds for the continuity of the necessary construction, repair and maintenance of irrigation systems administered by the National Irrigation Administration shall be included in the annual GAA.