NIA urged to waive irrigation service fees to Cotabato farmers

February 22, 2016 10:57 am 

MANILA, Feb. 22 — A lawmaker is urging the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to waive the irrigation service fees (ISF) to be paid by the farmers in the province of Cotabato.

Rep. Jose Tejada (3rd District, North Cotabato) said in House Resolution 2656 that the province was identified by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) as one of the provinces with the highest El Niño vulnerability for rice crop.

“The current weather pattern in the Philippines reinforce the announcement of PAGASA that a strong El Niño event is already taking place, affecting the dry season rice crop,” Tejada said.

Tejada said the ongoing strong El Niño condition was at its peak during the November-December-January 2015/2016 planting season and may continue up to the May-June-July 2016 planting season.

The Mindanao solon cited the warning raised by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) over food security in the country as the El Niño phenomenon wreaks havoc across the vast agricultural areas, leaving staple crops such as rice dying in parched earth.

Tejada said based on the assessment and conveyed in a January 2016 report by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC), the El Niño occurrence damaged 7,216.06 hectares or 36,683.47 metric tons (MT) or rice crop.

“The report further stated that the damage affected 9,061 farmers and incurred a total loss of 172,193,221.95 pesos, with the additional burden of the occurrence of drought-triggered infestation and disease,” Tejada said.

According to Tejada, the Office of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Cotabato issued Resolution No. 014 on Jan. 19, 2016 declaring the Province of Cotabato under a State of Calamity due to the occurrence of drought and rat infestation.

Tejada said Cotabato has been identified as one of the top ten rice producing provinces in the Philippines in the past 10 years by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, contributing a yield of 530,029 MT or 2.79 percent of the nation’s produce of 18,967,826 MT in 2014.

He said the local government units (LGUs) moved to save the remaining crops by bringing in additional irrigation pumps and seeding clouds to induce rain.

Based on the current situation of the farmers in the province, the farmers and their families deserve relief from their situation, Tejada said.

Tejada said the widespread effect of the El Niño occurrence is considered a general calamity beyond the control of the farmers that waiver in the payment of irrigation fees should be favorably considered. (PNA)

JMC/PR/EBP

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