TAGBILARAN CITY – An officer of the irrigators association lamented over the fast-paced conversion of farmlands into other development, including residential preference. Regional Federation of Irrigators Association president Ireneo P. Leuterio said in exclusive interview there’s a “rampant conversion” of farmlands. It is even illegal to convert farmlands into other uses based on certain department order of the Dept. of Agriculture, he said.
He also said that government agencies concerned should not compromise the farmland especially those prime farm lot and urged them to enforce policy on this score. Leuterio was the master of ceremony during the the inauguration yesterday of training center and region 6 and 7 anniversary celebration of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) graced by Sec. Francis Pangilinan, presidential assistant for agriculture modernization.
Joining Pangilinan were NIA administrator Engr. Florencio F. Padernal, NIA acting regional manager Mario Sande, Rep. Erico Aristotle C. Aumentado (2nd dist), Gov. Edgar Chatto, City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II, Reps. Rene Relampagos and Arthur Yap were represented, officials of the National Food Administration (NFA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), officers and members of the irrigators association of Cebu, Siquijor, Negros Oreintal aside from Bohol.
On the same vein, Leuterio, who leads the Cebu irrigators to the inauguration, responded to the query on liberating the irrigator-farmers from the bondage of irrigation service fees (ISF).
Earlier, the militant Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon, an affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) demanded from the government to do away with the ISF so farmers can produce more.
Leuterio said that instead of phasing out the ISF’s burden, the government should subsidize the needs of the farmers thru farm inputs and modernization. And this is one way of protecting farmers.
In his short speech, Pangilinan, former chair of the Senate agriculture committee, told the audience that “we should treat the farmers with respect like our parents because they’re the ones who feed us.” He said that it’s been long time that farmers, who he considers the backbone of the nation, were not given support they need.
“I have a job because of the farmers,” he said, adding that securing farmers is securing food.
He lamented that farmers are getting old since the average age of the farmers is 56-58 and educational is only up to grade four. And less young ones are going into farming because the income derived from farming is only about Php23,000/year. This proves they’re not being supported, he said.
As this developed, he urged agencies concerned to extend support necessary for the farmers to produce more. He said that the country cannot be like any countries belonging to Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), like Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia or Vietnam and others if agencies don’t give importance of the farmers.
He cited as one concrete step in supporting the farmers is the provision of irrigation facilities. He expressed optimism that if only that agencies concerned come and work together agriculture could be improved. (rvo)