Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated the crucial need for the government to focus on improving resilience of the agricultural sector and reduce the impact of natural disasters on farmers and rural communities.
With this, he filed a bill seeking to provide immediate financial assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the event of natural calamities.
“Filipino farmers who feed the nation, inevitably face adverse effects of circumstances that are beyond their control such as natural calamities, the infestation of plant diseases and pests, or even death and injury while farming, which also leads to loss of money and resources,” remarked Go.
“The purpose of this bill is to provide assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries in the event of natural calamities to make their losses more bearable, to help them recover from adverse effects, and to mitigate the effects of natural calamities by providing full crop insurance coverage to qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries,” he explained.
If passed into law, Senate Bill No. 2118 shall amend Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1998, as strengthened by RA 9700, to provide full crop insurance coverage to ARBs, unburdening them from insurance premium payment, aiding them in times of calamities, and allowing them to immediately recover, thereby protecting food security in the country.
“Hindi po natin maiiwasan ang pagdating ng bagyo at iba pang sakuna kaya mas mabuti po na palagi tayong handa para maproteksyunan ang ating mga magsasaka. Sa ganitong paraan, mapoproteksyunan rin natin ang pangunahing pinanggagalingan ng ating pagkain,” he said.
“Napaka-importante na walang magutom. Sikapin nating bigyan ng karampatang suporta at proteksyon ang ating mga maliliit na magsasaka na kumakayod araw-araw para masigurong may pagkain sa hapag-kainan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino,” he reiterated.
The proposed full insurance coverage shall be for compensable losses to all qualified ARBs, who are actually tilling the land.
The compensable losses shall include natural calamities, plant diseases, pest infestations, and loss of life or injury.
Meanwhile, the covered crops and other farming and fishery produce are the following: palay, corn, sugarcane, high-value crops, crops or stocks in fisheries farms, livestock, and non-crop agricultural assets used in actual farming and reported to and certified by the Department of Agrarian Reform.
If enacted, the bill shall also require the secretaries of the Department of Agriculture and DAR to incorporate the Act’s implementation into their programs immediately, and the initial funding will be deducted from the General Appropriations Act’s funds allotted to the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) for the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture.
Go noted that while crop insurance is available through the PCIC, farmers often cannot afford the insurance premium required to be paid under the program.
In line with this, he also filed SBN 2117 which seeks to expand the services of the PCIC and encourage private sector participation in agricultural insurance.
He cited that from 2010 to 2019, damages incurred due to natural extreme events and disasters amounted to PhP463 billion, of which agriculture posted the largest share with 62.7 percent or PhP290 billion, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
If SBN 2117 is enacted, the PCIC shall immediately cover all agricultural commodities and include other non-crop agricultural assets, such as livestock, aquaculture and fishery, agroforestry, forest plantations. Private sector organizations are also encouraged to assist farmers by offering reinsurance services for entities willing to offer agricultural insurance.
Citing the crucial role of farmers in ensuring food security, the senator has been consistently pushing for stronger agricultural support systems and infrastructure.
He was one of the authors of Republic Act No. 11901, expanding the agriculture, fisheries, and rural development financing system. He has also been advocating for other programs to support farmers and fisherfolk in the country, such as the enhancement of the irrigation of farmlands and expansion of the National Rice Program.
Go likewise co-sponsored SBN 1850 or the proposed New Agrarian Emancipation Act, which was approved by the Senate last March 9. The bill seeks to condone almost PhP58 billion worth of loans that ARBs incurred in owning lands under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or from other agrarian reform programs.