Free irrigation, tuition in SUCs bring optimism to agri, education sectors in Negros
By Nanette L. Guadalquiver
BACOLOD CITY (Philippines News Agency) — The allocation of funds of the Duterte administration for free irrigation to farmers, and free tuition in state colleges and universities (SUCs) starting 2017 have brought optimism to concerned sectors in the Negros Island Region (NIR).
Executive Director Joyce Wendam of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-NIR said that free irrigation will help the region overcome its three percent rice sufficiency deficit.
The rice self-sufficiency level of NIR is at 97 percent.
Wendam said the free irrigation services would help farmers lower their production costs, and lower production input will further motivate farmers to expand production areas.
Expansion is one of the strategies to achieve 100 percent rice self-sufficiency in NIR by 2019, she added.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA)-Negros Occidental Provincial Office in Bago City covers 12,032 hectares of irrigated and planted areas.
Of the total rice areas of 65,000 hectares in the province, about 40 percent still have no access to irrigation and are still dependent on rain, according to the data of the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol had earlier said the promise of President Rodrigo Duterte to provide local rice farmers with free irrigation has been realized.
The Senate finance committee allocated an additional P2.3 billion to the budget of NIA for 2017. The allocation is intended for the salaries of NIA workers, which are previously taken from the fees of farmers for irrigation services.
Meanwhile, those who advocate access to affordable quality education also expressed optimism on the implementation of free tuition in SUCs.
Christian Tuayon, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros (Bayan-Negros), said he is hopeful that the free tuition will be implemented starting the next school year.
Free tuition in SUCs is one step to accessible education, he added.
“As a student-activist before, we have been fighting for free and accessible education,” Tuayon said in an interview.
He stressed that “the national government should provide not only quality education, but accessible education, which means free tuition and miscellaneous fees.”
The 2017 General Appropriations Act amounting to P3.350 trillion includes the P8-billion allocation under the Commission on Higher Education.
Bacolod City Administrator John Orola, president of VMA Global College here, said the Association of Colleges and University of Negros Occidental (ACUNO) also welcomed the implementation of free tuition in SUCs as this would help financially challenged students.
The government and the private sector should work together to realize the plan, he added.
Orola also said that SUCs should offer courses that are not afforded by private schools, particularly those related to geology, mining, and natural sciences. (PNA)