Farmers affected by Marawi strife to get loans

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will provide emergency loans and food aid to farmers and fishermen in areas affected by the ongoing conflict in Lanao.

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The loans will be extended to affected farming and fishing families in Lanao del Norte while the food aid will be for affected families in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

In a Facebook post, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he will direct the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, an agency under the DA, to validate the list of the farmers and fisher folks. and provide emergency loan assistance through the department’s Survival and Recovery (SURE) loans program.

Piñol said that each farmer and fisher folk family will be entitled to a survival loan of at least P5,000.

“When things get back to normal, they could apply for a loan under the Recovery Program amounting to at least P20,000,” the DA chief added.

In view of the difficulty in locating the farms of the farmers and the fisher folks, Piñol said that the DA will relay mainly on the listing of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the extension of the loans.

He has also directed all DA regional offices in Mindanao to start milling rice seeds with low germination rate so rice could be distributed to families displaced in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

However, the use of seed buffers for food means that there will be lower stocks of rice seeds for the next planting season.

Meanwhile, Piñol said that the government would also start the distribution of ready-to-eat canned rice to thousands of evacuees from Marawi City.

“A poultry company based in Davao City, which is now producing canned ready-to-eat rice with chicken, afritada, or adobo, has pledged to produce enough volume to be able to provide the Halal food to the evacuees who belong to the farming and the fishing sectors,” he said.

The donation will be coursed through the DA, but the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will handle the distribution of the rice since it has the experience and the manpower to handle relief distribution, he added.

The distribution of the rice and the canned goods will be based on the listing of farming and fishing families available through the national directory of farmers and fishermen from the DBM.

“This will be the first time that the canned ready-to-eat rice meal will be offered to the public,” Piñol said, adding that the product is not available in the commercial market yet.

Piñol earlier said that the declaration of martial law would not affect the agricultural production in Mindanao, stressing that it may even boost efforts to help farmers in the hinterlands of the south.

The DA chief clarified that only certain areas are affected by the declaration of martial law and that majority of Mindanao, one of the major food baskets of the Philippines, will be business as usual. The military rule in the region is to last only 60 days

“Sa tingin ko nga matutulungan pa ng martial law ang mga maliliit na farmers na madalas hinihingan ng revolutionary taxes ng mga rebelde [I even see martial law protecting small farmers who are usually harassed by communist rebels for revolutionary taxes]. Now they can go to their farms without fear of being harassed,” Piñol said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao, placing its 20 million population, under military control following fierce fighting erupted between government troops and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group that attacked Marawi City.

NFA distributes rice

Meanwhile, state-run National Food Authority (NFA) said that prices of regular and well-milled rice in Lanao del Norte and neighboring provinces remain stable in spite of the ongoing battle between government troops and the Maute terrorist group.

Continuous market monitoring by the NFA showed the price of regular-milled rice (RMR) in Lanao del Norte, where its capital city, Marawi, is the center of fighting between the military and Maute rebels, even decreased by 5 percent after the siege, from P36 per kilogram in May 22 to P34/kg in May 24, while well milled rice (WMR) remained at P43/kg during the period.

In Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental, which are about two to two and a half hours away from Marawi, the price of RMR remained stable at P34.50/kg and P36.50/kg, respectively, while WMR also remained at P41.50/kg and P42.50/kg, respectively.

On the other hand, in Camiguin, which is about six hours away from Marawi, the price of RMR slightly increased by 4 percent from P36/kg to P37.50/kg, while WMR increased by 1 percent from P43.50/kg to P44/kg during the period. In Misamis Occidental, four hours away from Marawi, a 2-percent increase was noted in the price of RMR from P35/kg to P36/kg while WMR remained at P41.50/kg.

The NFA said that it has already released 3,000 bags of rice intended for the evacuees.

A total of 2,200 bags were withdrawn by the DSWD from NFA Tacurong, Region 12 (1,000 bags) and NFA Maguindanao (1,200 bags), while the Office of Vice President Leni Robredo also withdrew 500 bags from NFA Cagayan de Oro city and the Office of Civil Defense of Cotabato withdrew 300 bags from NFA Iligan. The stocks are for distribution as food assistance to affected families in Marawi City.

The NFA office in Marawi was closed after the NFA warehouse in the area was ransacked last May 25 by Maute members who ran away with some 100 bags of rice. The NFA office and other facilities were left untouched by the rebels and are now secured by the military.

Meanwhile, the 30 employees of NFA Marawi who are also residents of Marawi City abandoned their homes and fled to safety in Iligan City where the local NFA’s operations were transferred for the meantime.

NFA employees nationwide initiated a fund drive, gathering a total of P350,000 as of May 30, in support of their dislocated colleagues from NFA Marawi. The amount shall be distributed to the beneficiaries by NFA Administrator Jason Laureano Aquino as he visits the area to assess the agency’s operations and personally comfort the affected employees.

The NFA has also turned to social media to gather more support for their affected employees. Using #Tabang4NFAMarawiemployees, the account has so far gathered pledges for financial support from other NFA employees and the public.

NFA teams continue to monitor the rice situation in Mindanao and the entire country to immediately respond to any major spikes in rice prices and supply, not only in the places affected by the emergency but also in highly populated urban centers and remote areas that are traditionally vulnerable to rice price hikes during this time when the lean months are fast approaching.

The NFA activates its Operations Center during natural or man-made calamities and emergencies to quickly and effectively respond to any need for rice by affected residents.

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