THE Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has approved an additional P1 billion for the Survival and Recovery Assistance Program (SURE Aid), expanding its assistance to 70,000 farmers affected by the plunging price of palay, or unmilled rice.

“Today, we approved additional P 1 billion to support the same program… so mayroon na tayong [we already have a] total amount of P2.5 billion… para mapondihan itong [to fund] SURE Aid loan assistance program for rice farmers” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said during a press conference on Friday.

The P1 billion will be on top of the initial P1.5 billion allotted for the on-going program, which was launched Sept. 2. Under the loan assistance program, rice farmers who applied for a loan will be given P15,000, with 0% and payable in eight years.

“That is not enough. It can only accommodate 100,000 farmers out of the 600,000 farmers that we have… In effect, we will now be able to give to almost 170,000 farmers,” Mr. Dar explained.

Furthermore, the Landbank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) also approved a P10-billion loan assistance for local government units (LGU) for their procurement of palay from farmers, needed facilities, and marketing efforts.

“We are launching the new program, which is the Palay Alay sa Magsasaka ng Lalawigan which will provide a program fund of about P10 billion to all LGUs for the purchase, acquisition of palay from the small farmers,” Emellie V. Tamayo, first vice president of the lending program management group of LANDBANK, said.

The new program will be applying the new buying price of palay, which is at P19 per kilo.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has been asking provincial offices to help in the procurement of palay from farmers. It earlier announced that 30 LGUs have already committed to procure, process, and market palay.

Meanwhile, the ACPC also approved a P60-million loan assistance for hog raisers affected by the first outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country.

“Naglaan kami ng [We allotted] P60 million as livelihood assistance to those affected by the African Swine Fever…. They can buy any inputs they want for their livelihood activities, so hindi lang baboy, pwede rin silang bumili ng manok basta pangkabuhayan [it’s not just hogs, they can also buy poultry as long as it’s for livelihood),” Mr. Dar explained.

Each affected hog farmer in Rizal and Bulacan will receive P30,000 loan, with 0% interest and three years to pay.

This is aside from the P82.5 million given to the Bureau of Animal Industry on Sept. 10, which will be used for different plans and programs to ensure that the country is protected from the further spread of the disease and for information campaign.

On Sept. 9, the DA confirmed the first outbreak of ASF in the country, specifically in areas in Rizal and Bulacan. Mr. Dar assured that these areas are now clear of ASF according to the tests conducted by the DA in the area.

On Thursday, there were reports that dead pigs were found in Marikina River in Marikina City and a creek in Bagong Silang, Quezon City. About 40 pigs were found in Marikina City, while three were found in Quezon City.

Mr. Dar said that dead pigs are being collected and buried. Investigation is also on-going as to where these came from, but he said they is a high possibility that these came from affected hog raisers in Rizal, since there were those who acted on their own instead of reporting the deaths.

He urged affected hog raisers to report possible outbreak of the ASF in their farms and to immediately implement safeguard measures, preventing the spread of the disease. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang