DA to fast track agri loan for Albay farmers
By Lovella P. Guarin LEGAZPI CITY --- Farmers in the seven municipalities and three cities in Albay that are affected by the Mayon eruption can avail of P25,000 interest-free loan under the agency’s SURE program, while farmers in municipalities in Albay which are not affected by the eruption can avail of collateral-free loans of P25,000 up to P150,000 under PLEA. SURE which stands for Survival Recovery Assistance Program and PLEA which stands for Production Loan Easy Access are two loan windows being offered by the Agricultural and Credit Policy Council (ACPC), an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture commissioned by Secretary Manny Piñol to help the displaced farmers in Albay. To fast track the implementation of these two loan windows, the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division of DA Bicol in cooperation with the ACPC and the provincial LGU of Albay convened the Municipal and City Agriculturists/Officers (MAOs/CAOs) of the 18 municipalities of Albay as well as representatives of rural banks, cooperatives and irrigators associations which are targeted by DA as lending conduits for an orientation held on February 8, 2018 in one of the hotels this city. Rodel P. Tornilla, DA Bicol RTD for Operations and Extension said that during his visit to Albay on January 29, President Rodrigo Duterte committed financial assistance of P100 million through the DA from its Quick Response Fund (QRF) to assist affected families. Tornilla also clarified that while the mandate of the DA is to help farmers produce food, those who will deliver the credit assistance must ensure that guidelines are followed and the money will go to legitimate and truly affected farmers. The 7 municipalities eligible under SURE are Polangui, Oas, Guinobatan, Camalig, Malilipot, Daraga and Sto. Domingo while the 3 cities are Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao City. Ding Pereyra, Project Development Officer IV of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) discussed the SURE and PLEA guidelines. Both the SURE and PLEA are being implemented through lending conduits. Under SURE, the farmer applicant will initially receive P5,000 for their subsistence, while the P20,000 will be released to them when they get back to their residence/farms to make sure they will start their agri enterprises. Maximum loanable amount is P25,000 per farmer regardless of the size of the farm. The LGU through the MAO/CAO will submit to the DA list of affected farmers in their areas and the DA will endorse said list to the ACPC which will serve as the latter’s gauge in determining the amount to be downloaded to the conduit banks or coops. Meanwhile, PLEA was pioneered by DA in the top 10 poorest provinces in 2016 and it was expanded to 34 provinces the following year. In November 2017, Sec. Manny Piñol approved Masbate’s inclusion in the program. And in January 29, 2018, Sec. Piñol allocated P50 million for PLEA in Albay. Under PLEA, only one member per household can avail at one time and he/she must own not more than 3 hectares or engaged in backyard poultry raising. Agricultural workers without farm land are also qualified to apply as long as they have legitimate projects. Pereyra said that Loan limit under PLEA is P50,000 for high value crops. The ACPC can give up to P150,000 for farmers engaged in onion and garlic production. The loan is payable in 2 to 10 years depending on the commodity at 6% per annum interest. Even farmers not listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) can apply as the ACPC will provide the Municipal /City Agriculturists with a PUNLA/PLEA enrolment form which is to be filled up by the farmer, verified by the barangay captain and certified by the MAO/CAO. All loans under PLEA and SURE will benefit from free insurance provided by the PCIC. Pereyra assured that the SURE and PLEA projects in Albay are top priorities for the ACPC. Governor Al Francis Bichara rallied the rural banks, coops and irrigators associations present to consider the project as a public service or social responsibility. “After all, the farmers are our brothers who produce our food. Let’s make this credit program work, Governor Bichara added.” Provincial Agriculturist Cheryl Rebeta reported that as of January 28, a total of 21,342 families were evacuated which brought the total number of evacuees to 82,347. The losses to agriculture is still pegged at P185,281979. This figure was reported to Sec. Piñol during his visit. In closing, Dr. Edgar R. Madrid, RTD for Research and Extension said that the success of the program in Albay depends on the cooperation of the provincial and municipal LGUs, the conduit banks, coops and IAs.