Agri chief assures more loan assistance to Albay farmers
By Emily B. Bordado GUINOBATAN, Albay --- To boost the morale of Albay farmers currently affected by the Mayon eruption, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol assures that the Department of Agriculture has enough money for them. After meeting with about 900 farmers and local officials at the full packed sports complex here last Saturday, January 29, Piñol committed an additional P50M to be loaned out to farmers under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) Program. This loan window implemented by the DA in partnership with the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) will extend credit to farmers without interest and collateral payable in 3 years. Farmers can avail of production loan from ₱5,000 to ₱25,000 without the usual documentary requirements but only an ID to be issued by the DA. The money will be coursed through conduit banks or cooperatives which shall get a 6% interest per annum. This credit window was originally extended only to the province of Masbate and some provinces in Mindanao but will now be extended in Albay. Piñol also announced that the DA provides credit assistance under the Survival and Recovery (SURE) Program for farmers affected by typhoons and other calamities. Under this scheme, a farmer included in the LGU’s master list of affected farmers will be entitled to a loan assistance worth ₱25,000. The initial amount of ₱5,000 will immediately be released for food subsistence and the balance of ₱20,000 to be released later for purchase of production inputs. This is also interest- and collateral-free. On the same occasion Secretary Piñol turned over a total of ₱20,371,672.00 worth of interventions. Under the Rice Program, ₱13,250,000 worth of hybrid rice seeds, fertilizers and laminated sacks were turned over to LGUs and farmer organizations. Under the Corn Program, ₱4,974,500 worth interventions consisting of 707 bags hybrid yellow corn seeds were turned over to 5 LGUs and 1 unit 4WD tractor worth ₱2.5M was awarded to the Provincial Agriculture Office. Meanwhile, the Livestock and Poultry Program turned over 2,450 heads mallard ducks and supplements for livestock worth ₱577,212.00 to 7 LGUs. The High Value Crops Development Program, on the other hand, distributed ₱559,960.00 worth of vegetable seeds, organic fertilizers, knapsack sprayers and garden tools. The Organic Agriculture Program likewise provided ₱740,000.00. BFAR likewise turned over 900,000 pcs of tilapia fingerlings amounting to ₱270,000 to 18 LGUs. As of this writing, there are 9,791 farmers in 10 municipalities of Albay affected by the eruption, covering a total area of 8,137.36 hectares valued at P185M. The secretary was accompanied by BFAR Undersecretary Eduardo Gonggona (Ret. Commodore); DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Elena B. de los Santos; RTD Edgar R. Madrid; RTD Rodel P. Tornilla; and heads of regional management council: PCIC Regional Manager Corazon Realubit; PhilFIDA OIC Director Mary Anne Molina; Phil. Coconut Authority (PCA) representative Alvin Trespeces; Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Dennis Del Socorro; Phil. Fisheries Development Authority (PDFA) Port Manager Carlos Hagosojos; National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) Director Dr. Fernando Lontoc; and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) OIC Regional Director Vivien Carable. Albay 3rd district Congressman Fernando V. Gonzales; Guinobatan mayor Ann Yap Ongjoco; Mayor ; Maria Arhdail Baldo of Camalig; Mayor Cenon Volante of Malilipot, Albay; representatives of the mayors of other affected municipalities and some media were also present. Earlier Sec. Piñol first had a breakfast meeting with Governor Al Francis Bichara and AKB Cong. Rodel Batocabe. Also present were Dr. Cedric Daep head of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management (APSEMO); Dr. Florencio Adonay of Albay Provincial Veterinary Services; Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Regional Director Claudio Yucot; Albay Provincial Administrator Vida Ma. Corazon Frollante and Provincial Agriculturist Cheryl Rebeta.