Following the release of the P27.1 billion package aimed to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Representative and House Committee on Economic Affairs Chair Sharon Garin called for the swift utilization of the P2.8 billion earmarked fund to aid farmers.

Also known as the Survival and Recovery (SURE) Aid Program of the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (DA-ACPC), small farmers and fisherfolk will be granted better access to loans of up to P25,000 each at zero interest. This initiative will include a one-year moratorium without interest on payments of outstanding loan obligations of small farmers and fisherfolk (SFF) borrowers under the ACPC Credit Program.

In a Joint Memorandum Circular of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), DA, and the Department of Health (DOH), a price freeze on basic commodities will be in effect until May 15, 2020 after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the state of public health emergency.

Rep. Garin maintained that while the price freeze will be beneficial for consumers, financial assistance must also be in place for farmers who are bound to deal with the surge in demand.

“Farmers are the front liners in ensuring food security. They must be reassured that their welfare is also a priority of the government,” Rep. Garin added.

As the principal author of House Bill 4256, otherwise known as the Rural and Community Banking Act of 2019, Rep. Garin underscored how rural banking can sustain the credit needs of farmers and fisherfolk, boost agricultural productivity, and stir economic activity in rural areas.

Echoing DA Secretary William Dar, Rep. Garin maintains that available, affordable and accessible credit for farmers is crucial in ensuring the competitiveness and productivity of the agriculture sector. She remains optimistic that the earmarked fund will be made available to the target beneficiaries soon.