THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has given P1 billion to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) to serve as additional funding for an emergency loan programs targeted at small farmers and fisherfolk.

At a virtual ceremony on Dec. 15, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar and LANDBANK President Cecilia C. Borromeo signed the fund transfer agreement, which also outlines the implementing rules for the DA’s loan program.

The funds were allocated under Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act. The program is expected to benefit around 40,000 eligible borrowers.

“This is our way of helping agri-fishery micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and small farmers and fishers recover from their losses, as they play a crucial role in ensuring the availability of food in Metro Manila and other urban centers,” Mr. Dar said.

Under the loan program, small farmers and fisherfolk may borrow up to P25,000 with no collateral and zero interest, payable in 10 years.

The funds can be used for production, post-harvest, processing, marketing, and other activities in the food supply chain.

Meanwhile, Ms. Borromeo said by the end of November, LANDBANK had lent P7.76 billion to the agriculture sector, benefiting 228,000 farmers.

“We welcome this opportunity to distribute timely, responsive, and non-interest bearing financing for small farmers and fishers, whose sources of livelihood and income are adversely affected by the ongoing pandemic,” Ms. Borromeo said.

The DA said an initial P2.5 billion was allotted for the loan program, which has been fully released to more than 535,000 farmers during the early stages of the pandemic.

“We will continue what we have started because it is our moral obligation to provide food for all Filipinos, and we start by helping our frontliners in the countryside,” Mr. Dar said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave