AGRICULTURE is the backbone of the Philippine economy – and yet farmers still don’t get their fair share in the country’s economic growth.

In fact, workers in the agriculture sector accounts for more than a third of Filipinos living on or below the poverty line.

According to 2015 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the poverty incidence for farmers is at 34.3 percent and 34 percent for fishermen.

Fortunately, ensuring that the country’s farmers and fishermen get the much-needed assistance from the government is now on top of President Rodrigo Duterte’s agenda.


Funds for farmers

In fact, the President has already called on the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and other government agencies to release funds for beneficiaries of the government’s land reform program “as soon as possible.”

“Release it, give it to the farmers for fertilizer and other needs for their production,” the President told Landbank officers during the distribution of certificates of land ownership acquisition (CLOAs) to 1,680 farmer-beneficiaries in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat last April 2.


Credit funding

President Duterte’s pronouncements came at the heels of Landbank’s pledge in 2016, shortly after he took office, to triple its lending to small farmers and fishermen.

Landbank president Alex Buenaventura had promised to raise its credit funding for the agricultural sector from P37.9 billion to P115 billion by 2022.

At the time, Landbank’s total loanable funds to the agriculture sector stood at 8.2 percent, far below the 15 percent mandated by Republic Act No. 10000 (Agri-Agra Credit Reform Act of 2009).


Closer to the farmers

President Duterte is now urging Landbank to bring funding closer to the farmers, exhorting them to not just wait for farmers to come to their offices but go the extra mile by reaching out to the farmers to attend to their needs. 

“Land Bank is for farmers and yet it has rumbled on just like a commercial bank. It should be the bank that should reach out to you,” he stressed.


Weakest Link

Those who have less in life should have more in law, President Ramon Magsaysay had once said. 

And in the same vein, President Duterte has reiterated that agriculture – the “weakest link” in the Philippines’ economy – should have the most shares in terms of financial assistance.


Nothing without farmers

“The Philippines is nothing without our farmers. I am one with the entire nation in recognizing this. I urge you to demonstrate solidarity in building a stronger economy,” he said.  

The President noted that he is humbled and proud to personally hand over the titles to beneficiaries and stressed that things should not just end with CLOA distribution.

He said this should be followed through with assistance the government could give to the sector.


No corruption

If he would have his way, Duterte wanted farmers to be given their own tractors to help them in their production.

Noting the anti-corruption stance of his administration, he said he hopes the assistance would reach the farmers without any individual or group getting money along the way.


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