President Rody Duterte keeps his promises.

Last night, President Duterte confirmed his call for free irrigation water for the country's small rice farmers, a promise he made during the campaign.

In fact, in response to the comment made by Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano that the debts of the country's farmers to the National Irrigation Administration's irrigation fees amounted to over P13-B, President Duterte said Congress should consider the condonation of the accounts.

"How can they pay that?" he asked referring to the billions of unpaid irrigation fees which have accumulated over the years.

President Duterte reiterated his position that the small rice farmers of the country should not be made to pay irrigation fees as it is an added burden on a sector which is among the poorest of the poor.

The free irrigation commitment by the President was almost sabotaged by holdover officials of the NIA who did not include in their budget proposal the estimated P4-B which would cover the salaries and wages of NIA officials and employees.

In an earlier meeting of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), Sec. Mariano quoted the President as saying that he was fed up with the corruption in the NIA.

As a supporter of the President's advocacy for free irrigation, I have actually succeeded in lobbying with the allies of the Pres. Duterte in Congress and the Senate for an additional budget for NIA for 2017 so that the wages of NIA officials and employees could be covered despite the non-collection of the irrigation service fees.

In Congress, the members of the powerful appropriations committee headed by Cong. Karlo Nograles and backstopped by vice chairman Megan Antonino, including opposition leaders like Edcel Lagman, have all pledged to support President Duterte's free irrigation advocacy.

In the Senate, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Loren Legarda, Migz Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao and Chiz Escudero are among the strongest supporters of free irrigation.

In fact, Loren Legarda who chairs the powerful Finance Committee in the Senate has vowed to make sure that the P4-B subsidy for NIA to cover the salaries and wages of its employees for 2017 would be included.

With the President's affirmation of his commitment to provide free irrigation, the road for the implementation of this long-cherished dream of the small rice farmers is now a reality.

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