OAS, Albay—Recalling their helplessness early this year when Mayon Volcano erupted and covered their ricefields with ash and volcanic pebbles, Armando Rebagoda, Shakeys Copino, Barangay Councilor for Agriculture Gemma Copino and Salve Regachuelo could not believe that they were able to recover fast from the calamity. Thanks to the government especially the Department of Agriculture which provided assistance.

“Aram mi man na lugi na kami ta nasa vegetative stage pa sana an samong mga paroy (We know that we will not profit because our palay are still on vegetative stage),” said Rebagoda, 62 with three kids.

They laughed when they learned that they have one question in mind while the volcanic ashes where falling from the sky—“pano daw kami makabawi giraray kan samong mga gastos asin pagal (how can we regain back our expenses and hardwork)?”

Although Barangay San Isidro is located 11-kms away from the permanent danger zone, the residents were not spared from the ash and volcanic pebbles.

However, looking at their faces now, they are happy that another government assistance is at hand— the Survival Recovery (SURE) Access Program of the Department of Agriculture through its conduit bank—the Banco Santiago De Libon (BSDL).

According to the OAS Municipal Agricultural Officer Leonardo R. Ondiz, each farmer can avail a maximum of Php25,000.00. A total of 277 farmers from 15 barangays from this municipality can avail of the loan with no collateral, no interest and payable in two years (four cropping seasons).

“At least, dai na kami mautang sa pribadong tawo na may halangkawon na porsyento kada bulan (At least, we will not borrow from a private person with high interest rates every month)” said councilor Copino who will be using the loan proceeds to improve her ricefield.

The other beneficiaries will be using their loans to engage in swine, coconut, cacao, pili, fruit bearing trees, corn, peanut, rice and vegetable production.

Asked if they can afford to pay Php6,250.00 cash every cropping season, ”ay siyempre man sir (of course, sir)” because they will be given ample time to save compared to private banks and loan sharks.

BSDL Project Management Head Ma. Liza Dycoco bared that for Oas, the bank allocated Php6,633,000.00 pesos for the SURE Access Program.

The SURE Assistance Program is being implemented by the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC). It is a loan assistance for calamity-affected small farmers and fisherfolk in areas under state of calamity to finance their agricultural rehabilitation.

Dycoco also informed the farmers that this 2018, they have a small farm financing loan where they will be assisting farmers in purchasing farm equipment.

“This is like a mission of the bank to help our farmers,” she added.

Along with this program, there is also the Production Loan Easy Access which is a credit program to address the financial needs of the marginal and small farmers and fisherfolk for a fast, convenient and affordable credit.

For Albay, the conduit banks include BSDL, Camalig Bank, Rural Bank of Pilar and Rural Bank of Guinobatan. For Camarines Sur, the conduit entities include Magarao Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC), Sampaloc MPC, Camarines Sur MPC, Maymatan Farmers MPC, and San Antonio Farmers Irrigators MPC. (jaysonmgonzales)