This study is a preliminary assessment of the policy change brought by the Free Irrigation Service Act through an examination of secondary data and collection of primary information through key informant interviews and focus group discussions. The study found that free irrigation had the potential to benefit millions of individuals, although it only led to a small savings in palay production cost. Moreover, while palay farmers were poorer than the average household, most of them were not poor. The study urges the government to continue pursuing irrigation management transfer within the context of free irrigation based on minimum maintenance for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and transparent maintenance standards for both NIA and irrigators’ associations. It also calls for a sustained and increasing subsidy for operations and maintenance, which must be made available only on a performance basis. The study advocates for the transformation of NIA into a service agency specializing in technical assistance, contract design, and performance monitoring.
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