NIA-9 4th Annual IA Congress dispels ISF Concerns

Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur – In an apt forum to discuss President Duterte’s ‘Free ISF’ promulgation, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Region IX recently concluded its 4th Annual IA Congress last September 9, 2016 at NIA Regional Irrigation Office Function Hall, Tawagan Norte, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

Attended by 309 Irrigators’ Association (IA) officials grouped in five batches from 170 IAs across the Zamboanga Peninsula, NIA-9 Regional Irrigation Manager (RIM) Diosdado A. Rosales comprehensively talked about the possible impact from both the IA’s and NIA’s end to dissolve several concerns expressed relative to the said pronouncement.

“NIA supports the President’s policy statement and direction of No ISF or Free ISF, and will continue to perform its functions, less the ISF collection. Farmers will enjoy a considerable savings of P4,250.00 per hectare per year for the National Irrigation Systems (NISs) and P1,275.00 for the Communal Irrigation Systems (CISs) ,” he said as an introduction.

He cited that with no ISF IA’s existing cropping calendar and water distribution plans may no longer be followed by farmers which may results to several complications, a mindset of free irrigation water may result to the destruction of irrigation facilities to divert water to their farms, farmers may no longer be compelled to attend meetings, a decrease in total rice production areas, and idle lands might be converted to uses other than agriculture were among the possible scenarios he talked about.

“However, IA being an organization with a legal personality, can continue to collect from its members for its continuous operation. It can be called Association fee or the like but definitely not ISF since NIA will no longer require IA to pay,” he explained.

He further pointed out that the water fee collection hold several IA policies, rules, and regulation together, sustain various existing plans and programs, effect minor repairs and improvements, and overall fund the IA for its continuous efficient operation.

Majority of IAs were concerned, recalling the problems experienced in 1998 when ISF was abolished by deposed President Joseph E. Estrada which however was later revised into socialized ISF.

“Sa ako nindut man, pero dili lang siguro wala-on ang ISF bisag i-maintain lang ang P10.00 per kilo na bayad, i-ubos lang kung gusto sila mutabang sa farmer kay lisud kaayo mulihok nga walay pundo,” said Ronald Pepito, Federated President Dipolo River Irrigation System (DIPRIS) and MARLIBAMA IA President in a dialogue with the IAs.

(For me, it is good but I suggest not to abolish ISF but maintain a P10.00 per kilo payment, lower it if they really want to help the farmer because it would be so hard to work if no funds are available.”

“Ako di musugot na wad-on ang bayad sa irigasyon pwede man gani kung adunay dagkong rehabilitation na wad-on ang amortization pero magpabilin ang atong maintenance and other operating expenses kay kung wala-on usab kini magkarambola na tanan,”said Josefino Llego, IA President of PRIMATELL IA.

(I am not in favor that payment for ISF be abolished however the amortization for major rehabilitation may be waived but retain the maintenance and other operating expenses because it would be chaotic if this is abolished, too.)

Irrigation projects under CIS, collects 10% equity and 90% amortization of the direct chargeable cost. However, if IA fulfills a 30% equity counterpart, the ownership of the completed project is fully transferred to the IA with no further amortization. While for IAs under NIS, a 67-33 sharing scheme is employed through the Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) program where IAs take partial or full responsibility in the construction, operation, and maintenance of their respective irrigation system. This means that under the Model 2 contract of IMT, the IA receives 33% of the ISF collected in every cropping period.

RIM Rosales maintained that as long as the IA strives to be organizationally strong and help each other as a federation, the Free ISF will be a turned opportunity than a threat. He continued however that as long as there are no implementing rules and regulations passed, existing policies regarding the ISF collection will still be followed.

“We will continue to work with NIA in collecting ISF, we thank you for your personnel has helped us improved our IA,” responded IA President Ruben Conos of Bulong CIS during the closing program of the congress.

NIA charges two cavans per hectare during the wet season crop and three cavans per hectare for the dry season crop. To date, NIA-9 has developed a total of 67.52% from its potential area of 76,515 hectares. It has a total of 849.67M worth of irrigation projects allocated to the region for 2016.

‘Free ISF’ is a political promise made during the presidential campaign, President Duterte vowed to implement this on his term. ISF is a major source of NIA’s income generally used to pay its employees’ salaries and allowances. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will provide around 4B budget to cover for the said loss. According to Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the said pronouncement is set to take effect by 2017.