15K Cordillera farmers gain from free gov’t irrigation law

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet Hundreds of farmer-irrigators in this upland province lauded the government's free irrigation service program, which will benefit 15,000 vegetable and rice growers in the Cordillera region.

We are very thankful to President Duterte for pushing the free irrigation service program. For many years, farmers across the country including Benguet farmers have been clamoring that the government gives us free irrigation service, said Domingo Awas, president of the Benguet Farmers Federation of Irrigators Association, Inc. (BFFIA), in an exclusive interview with the Philippine News Agency .

Awas was referring to the President's recently signed Republic Act 10969, which frees small farmers, or those tilling land measuring less than 10 hectares, from paying irrigation service fees.

Surely it will benefit farmers, especially the small ones, stressed Awas, an irrigator in Tublay town, one of Benguet province's 13 municipalities.

Benguet supplies 80 percent of temperate vegetables in Metro Manila and nearby urban areas. Awas, himself, is a farmer of high-value crops, producing cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and coffee, among others.

According to Awas, there are about 9,000 individual farmers growing various commodities in Benguet alone, out of which 210 are groups of irrigators.

Awas said most farms here are in the mountains and require the leveling up of irrigation facilities to reach the crops.

Awas also expressed the BFFIA's gratitude to other government irrigation projects in the province, such as the communal irrigation facility called "Balikatan Sagip Patubig", which, he said, boosted the farmers' production and earnings.

He said the group also comes up with projects for the farmers' easy access to financing and farm development tools.

Meanwhile, in a forum, Benito Espique, Acting Regional Director of the National Irrigation Administration-Cordillera rallied Benguet irrigators to help each other and strengthen their partnership with the agency, pointing out that irrigation systems are vital in the production of highland vegetables, the province's primary industry.

Espique said 15,356 hectares of land in Benguet are currently being served by government irrigation facilities. The government-irrigated lands are equivalent 59.65, or more than half, of the total 25,746 hectares of potential irrigable areas.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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