Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. made the statement after the committee endorsed for plenary approval the substitute bill to 29 measures seeking to strengthen assistance to farmers, agrarian-reform farmers, and indigenous cultural communities by providing them with free irrigation.
Villafuerte, one of the authors of the bill, said the measure seeks to raise rural incomes and help the Duterte administration meet its target of “emancipating at least 6 million Filipinos from generational poverty”.
“One surefire way to do so is by dramatically raising farmers’ incomes by restructuring their accumulated debts from irrigation service fees (ISFs) and providing them with free irrigation from hereon,” he said.
“Providing free irrigation—a most vital input for growers of palay and other crops—has now become even more urgent with Malacañang now keen on lifting the QR [quantitative restrictions] on rice this year. Irrigation is crucial most especially to our rice farmers because palay is such a water-intensive crop,” Villafuerte added. He said the bill aims to streamline
the government’s irrigation-development program and carry out its mandate of irrigating all irrigable farmlands within four years.
The substitute bill also seeks to amend Section 2, Paragraph (c) of Republic Act (RA) 3601; Section 1, Paragraph (b) of Presidential Decree (PD) 552; Section 1, Paragraph (b) of PD 1702; and Section 35 of RA 8435 to allow the provision of free irrigation.
The bill also provides that all unpaid irrigation service fees, back accounts and the corresponding penalties due from a farmer, agrarian-reform farmer and member of the indigenous cultural communities, including their irrigators’ associations or farmers’ cooperatives, will be condoned by the government.
Negros Occidental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., a member of the House Committee on Agrarian Reform, has pushed for the inclusion of “land swapping” as a mode of acquisition of agricultural land under the proposed land-reform program.
In a separate statement, Teves said land swapping will be “more advantageous” to beneficiaries of the land-reform program.
Under the proposal, landowners will be granted the option to offer to the farmer-beneficiary another tract of agricultural land in exchange for that which is being subjected to land-reform proceedings.
Teves said the land to be swapped should be bigger in size than the land that would be covered by the land-reform program.
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