National Irrigation Administration, Region XI (NIA XI) has recently concluded the 9th Irrigators' Associations (IA) Congress held on January 26-27, 2017 at The Ritz Hotel at Garden Oases, Bo. Obrero, Davao City sponsored by the Region XI NIS & CIS Confederation of Irrigators Associations (RCIA XI) in partnership with the agency guided by its theme, "Irigasyon Pag-ibayuhin at Pangalagaan Tungo sa kasiguruhan at kasaganahan ng Pagkain sa Bayan" and attended by 314 participants composed of the IA Presidents, NIA Staff and guests.  Under the leadership of NIA XI Regional Manager Felix M. Razo and RCIA XI President Saturnino D. Simbajon, the congress highlighted the recognition of Outstanding IAs and the launching  of the guidelines on the Free Irrigation Services.

          NIA Administrator Peter Tiu Laviña graced the event.  He awarded the  85 Outstanding IAs  assisted by Regional Manager Felix M. Razo; RCIA XI President Saturnino D. Simbajon and Vice Pres. Nestor N. Rama; NIA Board Member and NCIA President Silvestre Bonto; IDD NIACO Manager Bayani P. Ofrecio and NIA XI IMO Managers. 

          The 85 Region XI IA awardees composed of CY 2015 National Awardees Most Outstanding IAs under the AgriPinoy Rice Achievers' Awards; NIA Annual Search for Most Outstanding IAs; NIA-CARP Annual Search for Most Outstanding IAs; NIA Hall of Fame NIS Category Most Outstanding IAs; CY 2016 Top 3 Regional Most Outstanding IAs and Regional Outstanding IAs.

          As keynote speaker for this congress, NIA Administrator Peter Tiu Laviña has his first audience with the 220 Region XI IA Presidents whom he addressed and finalized the implementation of Free Irrigation Services as promised by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.  While he definitely assured free irrigation services for the marginalized farmer-irrigators, the IAs in consequence are bothered by this policy as they lose the share incentives, he said. 

          However, for IAs to maintain their viability, he advised them to get into business and entrepreneurship to generate income for the association and discipline their IA members in the management of the irrigation system and association affairs.  Sympathetically, he encouraged the IAs collect annual dues and even maintenance fee from the members and get advices from IA Federation, RCIA and learn from outstanding IAs' experiences to sustain IA activities.  From NIA, they will still be compensated on canal clearing at P1,750/section and P150.00 per area per hectare/ cropping for their operations which may be a little amount but can be added to their income. He also pledged to coordinate with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to exempt IA businesses from payment of taxes.  The NIA Institutional Development Program (IDP) will be strengthened in finding ways to implement the policies and guidelines of Free Irrigation Services and help IAs change their mind set from just collecting to indulging in income generating activities.  He also instructed to carry on the search for outstanding IAs as other IAs may learn from their technologies and performance.  Out of 8,100 IAs nationwide, few have been awarded as outstanding IAs.

          Adm. Laviña was at an awe to see for the first time so many IA Presidents and NCIA President Bonto was amazed at the number of outstanding IAs region XI has nurtured.

          The sharing of  outstanding IA Presidents on the success of their business ventures augmenting their income culminated the congress.

          Farmer-irrigators' issues on free irrigation services have been resolved and clarified in this assembly.