To reduce their production cost in 2021, 48-year-old corn farmer Felix M. Amoroso, his wife, Marycris, and their two sons, tilled their two-hectare corn farm in Brgy. Niño Jesus by themselves. However, their farm income for their subsistence and for payment of debts was depleted due to high cost of fertilizer and low buying price of corn. Their situation was made worse when Felix suffered from stroke early this year. Nevertheless, he and his wife are determined to continue farming. Thus, they find hope on the approval of their loan application with the Department of Agriculture Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (DA-ACPC) as a lifeline.

Felix is among the 75 corn farmers in Iriga City, Camarines Sur who will receive P25,000 loan assistance under the DA-ACPC’s Expanded SURE AID and Recovery Project (SURE COVID-19) not later than third week of March 2022.

“Para po sa amin, napakagandang programa po nito. Hindi na po kami mangungutang… Nagpapasalamat po kami. Tuloy-tuloy na po ang pagtatanim namin dahil may budget na kami,” Marycris said.  

DA ACPC Regional Focal Person Kenneth D. Valencia, Land Bank of the Philippines Camarines Sur Account Officers Dick Allen B. Bernas and Jethro M. Florida together with DA-Bicol Corn Program Technical Staff Debbie M. Pante and the Local Government Unit of Iriga City Agriculture Office headed by City Agriculturist Engr. Janice B. Orciga facilitated the signing of the farmer-beneficiaries in Iriga City’s loan documents during the Orientation of SURE-AID Corn Program Beneficiaries held at the LGU Compound in Brgy. Sta. Cruz, this city on February 24, 2022.

SURE COVID-19 is a loan credit program under the DA’s “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra COVID-19” or Plant, Plant, Plant Program that offers emergency and production requirements assistance worth P25,000 per household, payable up to 10 years with zero interest, and no collateral for marginalized small farmers and fishers (MSFFs) adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to avail of the said program.

To qualify for this program, borrowers must be registered/enrolled in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA)-registered MSFFs and must be included in the validated list as certified and endorsed by the Municipal/City Agriculture Office.

“Isa pong problema na nai-encounter ko kasi ako talagang may direct contact ako sa aming mga farmers. Talagang napi-feel ko po ang kakulangan sa capital na pambili ng inputs na gagamitin po nila. Isa pa po ang high cost of labor na rin. Isa pa rin po yun sa nagpapahirap sa mga magsasaka so kailangan na kailangan po talaga ng pera para sa mga gastusin po nila.  Itong SURE COVID-19 na ito is sobra-sobrang mahalaga para sa mga nagtatanim ng mais… Sobrang pasasalamat po because ang umutang ka ng walang interest is talagang sobra-sobrang tulong na po yan sa ating mga magsasaka and aside from that talagang may sigurado po sila na pera na gagamitin para sa mga expenses din po nila,” LGU-Iriga Corn Program Coordinator Marly L. Corporal said.

Orciga expressed her gratitude to the DA for the SURE COVID 19 program saying, “Pasalamat po ang siyudad kan Iriga ta nagkaigwa po kaining SURE COVID-19 na para po matabangan an mga farmers mi na at least po ma-lessen ang problema po ninda in terms of capital. Kung mahiling ta po an paroy, grabe po an assistance na itinatao unlike po sa corn kaya po ining SURE COVID-19 dakula po ining oportunidad para po matabangan mi an mga paratanom nin mais na at least po may capital na, payable for 10 years, no interest. Siyempre po para sa sainda, dakulang tabang para po at least masuportahan po ang pangangaipo ninda sa pagbakal po nin inputs and mapadagos po kasi po para maiwasan ta na maging idle an mga daga po digdi sa Iriga through the SURE COVID-19.” 

Corporal and Orciga also reminded the borrowers to develop a loan repayment plan or strategy. The LGU in partnership with LBP will be providing financial management trainings to the farmer-borrowers to ensure timely loan repayment semi-annually.

According to Valencia, about 389 MSFFs in Camarines Sur, Albay, and Camarines Norte qualified to avail of the SURE COVID-19. Their loan proceeds will be deposited to their respective savings account not later than March 2022. The SURE COVID-19 loan window is funded under Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

Agri-fishery-based micro and small enterprises (MSEs) may also avail up to P10 million working capital loan, payable up to five years with zero interest to continue their operations, recover from their losses caused by the COVID-19 lockdowns, and guarantee available and sufficient food supply amid the pandemic. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA RAFIS V, with reports from Kenneth D. Valencia, DA ACPC Regional Focal Person)