Senate approves bicam report on bill improving farmers’ access to financial services, training programs



With the end in view of enhancing access of agricultural communities to financial services and programs that increase productivity, the Senate ratified last week the bicameral conference committee report on the bill repealing Republic Act No. 10000 or the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act of 2009.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, the chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, sponsored the report harmonizing the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 2494 and House Bill No. 6134 or the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Rural Development Financing Enhancement Act of 2022.

Villar said concerns were raised because banks would rather pay penalties than lend money to farmers, fisherfolk, and other agricultural stakeholders. She said more than increasing penalties to ensure bank compliance, she finds merit in the proposal to consolidate the loan allocation for farmers and fisherfolks and agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB).

Mandated under the bill is an agriculture, fisheries, and rural development financing system through government and private banking institutions to improve productivity, income, competitiveness, and welfare of the rural community beneficiaries, particularly the farmers, fisherfolk, ARBs, agrarian reform communities, settlers, agricultural lessees, amortizing owners, farmworkers, fish workers, owner-cultivators, compact farmers, tenant farmers, and members of their household and their micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) as well as farmer’s and fisherfolk’s cooperatives, organizations and associations.

The financing system shall consist of loans and investments to finance activities that enhance productivity and increase the income of an agricultural and fisheries household, thereby promoting agricultural sector productivity and competitiveness, as well as sustainable development of rural communities.

Toward this end, all banking institutions, whether government or private, except newly-established banks for a period of five years from the date of commencement of the banks’ operations, shall set aside a credit quota, or a minimum mandatory agricultural and fisheries financing requirement of at least 25 percent of their total loanable funds.

Banks may comply with the mandatory credit requirement by lending to rural community beneficiaries to finance agricultural and fishery-related activities or comply with the requirement through other means such as lending for the construction and upgrading of infrastructure, including but not limited to, farm-to-market roads, as well as the provision of post-harvest facilities and other public rural infrastructure that will benefit the rural community. 

A salient feature of the reconciled version of the bill is the creation of a special fund collected from penalties wherein 20 percent would be allocated for agricultural- and fishery- related organizational– capacity- and institution-building programs and activities. This will be implemented by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines with the help of training providers as well as the Agricultural Credit Policy Council and the Cooperative Development Authority.

Villar noted that these training programs will equip farmers, particularly ARBs, as well as members of their households and the MSMEs, and agrarian reform communities with the appropriate knowledge and skills to improve their welfare, competitiveness, income, and productivity. 

As a certified measure, Villar expressed confidence that President Rodrigo Duterte will immediately sign the bill into law. 



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