QUIRINO REPRESENTATIVE Junie E. Cua, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, said last week that the panel is targeting the swift passage of House Bill (HB) 5618 or the Rural Agricultural and Fisheries Financing Enhancement System Act next year.

“Next year, we want to have this (House Bill 5618) passed. And we want not only for it to pass here but also to pass in the Senate. And eventually be signed by the President,” Mr. Cua told BusinessWorld on Dec. 18.

Under HB 5618, all banking institutions, whether government-owned or private, must set aside a credit quota or a “minimum mandatory agricultural and fisheries financing requirement of at least twenty-five percent of their total loanable funds,” except newly established banks which have only commenced operations in five years or less.

Compared to the Republic Act 10000 or the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act, HB 5618 underscores the need to organize and train farmers in cooperatives with professional managers who can access credit financing from banks.

According to the bill, the cooperatives will be able to provide “ready, low-interest, and flexible financing” for the needs of the farmers.

Complementing HB 5618 are the other priority bills of the committee which seek the mandatory allocation of financial loans to agriculture. These include HB 183 and HB 3437 authored by Deputy Speakers Michael Odylon L. Romero and Maria Rosa Vilma T. Santos-Recto, respectively.

HB 183 seeks to mandate the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to “focus on its Charter to allocate sixty percent (60%) of its total loan portfolio in solely providing support and financing services for farmers and fisherfolk.”

“The bill seeks to promote inclusive growth and improve the quality of life in the countryside. It will foster continuity and expansion of responsive financial and support services to all farmers and fisherfolk,” Deputy Speaker Michael L. Romero said in a press release.

Meanwhile, Ms. Santos-Recto filed HB 3437 to amend the LANDBANK charter by directing it to “focus on the provision of affordable credit to the agriculture sector where most poor Filipinos belong.”

“This bill seeks to restore the original intent for the creation of the Land Bank of the Philippines which is to assist farmers and other agricultural workers and to contribute to the fruition of agricultural development projects” Ms. Santos-Recto said. — G.L. Espedido