More than 200 peasant leaders from different provinces of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao today gathered in front of the Department of Agriculture in Quezon City in a protest and teach in dubbed as “Street Conference for Free Irrigation” calling on farmers to “boycott payments of irrigation service fees.”
“While all presidential candidates have promised free irrigation, none of them, however, have outlined on how to do it,” says Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Rafael Mariano.
“The demand for free irrigation services and irrigation development has become more urgent, just, and legitimate in the face of the lingering drought caused by El Nino,” Mariano said noting that more than 80 percent of the country’s provinces were affected by the drought.
“The peasantry is the hardest hit by the lingering dry spell as exemplified by the hunger suffered by Mindanao farmers,” says Mariano.
He said “the prolonged drought further worsened the hunger suffered by farmers brought by unjust exactions like irrigation service fees, high land rent, usury and the high cost of production shouldered alone by farmers.”
The KMP added that “more than 1.3 million hectares of lands that do not have irrigation has been drying up.”
The peasant group said that irrigation services should be part of the total subsidy to production from the national government.
“The government’s wrong policy of collecting irrigation service fees, aggravated by so-called ‘back accounts’ and penalties has pushed farmers to further bankruptcy,” Mariano said.
The KMP called on farmers across the country to “boycott irrigation service fees collected by the corrupt Aquino regime.”
“In spite of the Aquino government’s unparalleled incompetence in the delivery of irrigation water and criminal negligence in the face of drought, the National Irrigation Administration enjoys a hefty budgetary allocation amounting to a whooping P32 billion for 2016. It is all the more just and legitimate for farmers to boycott payments of irrigation service fees,” the KMP said. ###