LAND BANK of the Philippines (LANDBANK) is planning to boost its loan portfolio to the agriculture sector to P265 billion by 2020 and P350 billion by 2022 and lower annual interest rates to 5% from the current 6%.

On a press briefing on Wednesday, LANDBANK President and CEO Cecilia C. Borromeo said the bank targets to expand its lending to farmers and fisherfolk to P231.25 billion by yearend for an annual growth rate of 15%.

“By 2020, the loans to agri sector will reach P265 billion and we’re looking to assist 2 million farmers. So it’s a consistent growth so by 2022, the portfolio of the bank to the agri sector will reach P350 billion,” Ms. Borromeo told the reporters.

Data provided to reporters showed LANDBANK’s exposure to the agriculture and fisheries sectors amounted to P177.32 billion as of end-June, 22.17% of the lender’s total loan portfolio of P799.64 billion — 16.8% higher than P151.78 billion recorded as of June 2018.

Ms. Borromeo added that the bank will try to reach out to more farmers, targeting to lend to 1 million farmers within the year and increase this to 3 million by 2022.

On top of this expanded loan portfolio, she said LANDBANK will be lowering its annual interest rate to borrowers from the agriculture sector — specifically farmers and fisherfolk — to 5% from the current 6%.

“We looked at the cost of our core deposit and our capital and we think that five percent is something we can manage. Because we hope to subsidize. We will subsidize that from our other commercial loans,” she added.

Meanwhile, rates for borrowers outside the agriculture sector will be maintained as they have to follow the “prevailing market interest rates,” the official said.

In his State of the Nation Address last month, President Rodrigo R. Duterte threatened to abolish LANDBANK for supposedly neglecting its mandate to finance agricultural projects and endeavors.

In response, the bank earlier said it is the only lender compliant with Republic Act 10000 or the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act, which mandates banks to allot at least 10% of their total loanable funds to agrarian reform beneficiaries and 15% for farmers and fisherfolk.

Meanwhile, Ms. Borromeo said the bank wants to expand its branches to 50 by 2020 from the current 44 to reach the “underserved” regions of the country.

“We have 44 now, we are looking to increase that number to 50 in 2020 and we have initially identified three provinces. I already got approval from my board to open a lending [center] in Lanao del Norte and in Quirino. We’re working on the establishment of another lending center in Antique,” she said. — Beatrice M. Laforga