NAGA CITY – Following secretary Manny F. Piñol’s directive to bring easy to access credit facilities to the poor farmers in the unbanked and underbanked areas, the Department of Agriculture regional field office No. 5 organized the Loan Facilitation Team (LoFT).

The LoFT’s main task is to provide the needed technical assistance or support to farmers and fishers on credit awareness, loan acquisition, utilization and repayment. Each region will have a LoFT. In Bicol the regional LoFT is headed by the Rodel P. Tornilla,  DA Regional Technical Director for Operations and Extension as Team Leader. The Assistant Team Leader is Adelina A. Losa, Regional Agri-Credit Desk Officer. The members are the Agricultural Program Coordinating Officers (APCO) of the six provinces, representatives from the Planning Division, Field Operations Division,  Agribusiness Division, Engineering Division and ACEF RCU. Also included as members are the representatives of Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Crops Insurance Corp. (PCIC), Land Bank of the Phils., Provincial LGU Agri Credit Officer, and Regional Agricultural and Fishery Council (RAFC).

There are also provisional members: Phil. Fiber Development Authority (PhilFIDA), Phil. Coconut Authority (PCA) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

In every province, LoFT will also be organized which will be headed by the following APCO: Florentino Ubalde, Jr. For Albay and Sorsogon; Nena P. Adupe for Cam. Sur and Cam. Norte; Wilfredo Nelmida for Masbate and Edgar Ollet for Catanduanes.

On March 13, 2019, the DA – Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) national office oriented the LoFT members of Bicol in one of the hotels in Naga City.

Emily B. Bordado, DA RFO 5 regional information officer, in her welcome remarks said that credit assistance is one of the five priorities of Sec. Manny  F. Pinol, including small scale irrigation projects like Solar Powered Irrigation System; farm-to-market roads; postharvest facilities. “With the approval of the Rice Liberalization Law, easy access loan is the safety net of our farmers,” she added.  

Romina A. Gil, Information Officer of the ACPC presented the functions and responsibilities of the loan facilitation team. Carlo Abarquez, also of ACPC, presented the different loan programs of ACPC, namely: Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) (up to P150,000 at 6% interest per annum); Survival and Recovery Assistance (SURE) (up to P25,000 at 0% interest);  Working Capital Loan (up to P5M at 6% interest per annum diminishing balance), Agri-Fisheries Machinery & Equipment Loan (open to individual borrower, up to P250,000 at 2% per annum interest).  Michael Jordan Roquid, ACPC focal person in Bicol reported that as of February 2019, the ACPC has released a total of P59.2M and P35M for SURE under 2018 funds.

Meanwhile, Amado Ersando of ACEF PMS discussed the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) loan program. As stated in RA 10848 which extended the period of implementation of ACEF, the fund consists of all duties collected from importation of agri products under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) mechanism. The law further states that this fund shall continue to be set aside until year 2022.

Ersando added that in 2018 ACEF has downloaded P1.28 billion to the Land Bank and in 2019, a total of P1.44 billion will be allocated once approved by the DBM. The 80% of this fund is used as credit facility for agri-based production, post production, processing machineries, equipment extended to farmers/fishers associations and cooperatives (up to P5M); and to individual farmers (up to P1M).

Meanwhile, 10% is allotted as grant for research and development (R&D) of agri-fishery products commercialization including upgrading of R&D facilities or SUCs (up to P5M) per project. Another 10% is being used to finance scholarship grants to students taking agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and veterinary medicine being implemented by the CHED. Joan Salcedo of Land Bank Naga Lending Center also discussed the loan programs of Land Bank. Engr. Janice Obias of Philippine Crops Insurance Corporation shared some updates on crops insurance. (Lovella P. Guarin)