Press Release
March 22, 2010

Freeze all irrigation fee hikes - Villar

Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manny Villar is batting for a freeze on any increase in irrigation fees as he renewed his call for the immediate repairs of damaged irrigation systems all over the country.

Villar said the effects of El Niño are already wreaking havoc on vast agricultural lands, and farmers are reeling from massive losses from the drought.

"Ang ipinaglalaban natin ngayon ay ang kapakanan ng mga magsasaka. Dapat itigil ang ano mang pagtaas ng irrigation fees para bigyan ng konting ginhawa ang mga magsasaka," Villar said.

(What we are pushing now is the welfare of farmers. Any increase in irrigation fees should be stopped now in order to give farmers some relief.)

"Dapat din isagawa kaagad ang pagkumpuni ng mga irrigation systems natin na pwedeng kumpunihin para sa ganoon ay mabigyan ng lunas, kahit papaano, ang epekto ng El Niño," he added.

(The repairs of irrigation systems must be started immediately to ease the effects of El Niño.)

The NP standard-bearer also said irrigation fees should henceforth be rationalized, including a single-rate system for fees for both wet and dry planting seasons. The single-rate system will allow farmers to lower their operating costs to earn bigger profits.

Villar said the country has a potential irrigable land area of 3.126 million hectares, but only half, or 1.427 million hectares, is serviced by irrigation.

This year's P8-billion allocation for irrigation would only increase the irrigated area by 22,186 hectares, Villar said.

"At this rate, it will take the government 64 years to bring water to all of the potential areas. Tagtuyot na nga sa panahon, pati pa ba ang pondo para sa irigasyon, tagtuyot din? Dapat hindi, at makasiguro ang bayan na sa ilalim ng aking administrasyon, hindi ito mangyayari," Villar said.

The newly irrigated areas, if all will be planted to rice, can produce around 80,000 metric tons of palay annually, short of the 236,800 metric tons that two million Filipinos who are added to the population ever year would need, he said.

"Our country is still basically an agriculture economy. Close to 40 percent of the total population is employed in agriculture. They are the most vulnerable to El Niño," he added.

Agricultural production accounted for about a fifth of the Philippine economic output of $168.6 billion in 2008.

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