Farmers groups, government agencies, and private sector agribusiness stakeholders in Mindanao have called on Congress to extend the Weather Index-Based Insurance (WIBI) Mindanao Project, which is set to expire in June.
The WIBI Mindanao Project, which was launched in June 2015 as a two-year project, is a collective effort involving the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Department of Agriculture – Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (DA-PCIC), Climate Change Commission (CCC), National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Philippine Insurance Commission (PIC), Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), Agricultural Guarantee Fund Pool (AGFP), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), DA Regional Field Units (DA-RFUs), Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), and local government units in Northern Mindanao and Davao.
WIBI is a form of insurance that is designed to address two types of climate risks, increasing variability in climate, and climate change-induced natural disasters.
“The program aims to reduce poverty by strengthening the resilience of vulnerable agriculture-based rural communities in Mindanao through climate risk transfer mechanisms and productivity enhancement measures,” the DA explained.
In a forum on the program held on March 14, DA Undersecretary for Agribusiness Bernadette Romulo-Puyat urged stakeholders to help the department and the Philippine Crop Insurance Council (PCIC) appeal to lawmakers to extend the said project and allow its implementation to reach the national level.
On September 2016, Former Agriculture Secretary and Bohol 3rd District Representative Arthur C. Yap filed House Bill No. 3560 mandating the PCIC to offer index-based insurance coverage and allow it to engage in reinsurance. Yap also asked for an additional funding source for PCIC, and for allowing it to impose higher penalties on spurious claims.
He stressed the need for having a crop insurance system in the country, adding that the farmers are the most vulnerable when a typhoon hits the country.
“Farmers need not to wait for a total wipeout before we pay them insurance,” Yap said.
Yap, a former agriculture secretary, urged the Senate to create a counterpart bill which allows the reinsurance of PCIC and would be able to fulfill President Duterte’s directive to subsidize farmers’ crop insurance.
“Even if there is a map saying what farmers should plant, if there is no financing, how can we force them to plant?” Yap commented.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of Senate Committee for Agriculture and Food, in a letter said the senate is now reviewing the possibility of extending the program and crafting a new crop insurance system.
Villar, a staunch supporter of agricultural insurance, stressed that it is a practical way of addressing farmers’ needs.
Currently, there are 2,413 farmers enrolled in WIBI and 2,743 hectares have been insured by PCIC. PCIC has released 178 payouts totaling P1,483,833 or $29,700.
If the bill is implemented, PCIC will have an additional P10 billion fund beyond its current budget of P2 billion. The bill also authorizes the corporation to enter into reinsurance services.
“This major policy initiative is a key driver to further streamline the product improvement of WIBI and to ultimately scale out to a greater geographical areas with larger number of smallholder farmers and to variety of crops beyond rice and corn,” Yap said.
Meanwhile, PCIC President Atty. Jovy Bernabe urged farmers to encourage their co-farmers to engage in various crop insurance programs of DA. He also assured stakeholders that his department would continue to improve their services, including the application of modern technology that will help farmers to file and follow up on claims.
Recently, PCIC launched a smartphone application, which enables claims adjusters to assess the damages in the field and immediately transmit claims assessments to the PCIC regional offices.
“With this we can guarantee claims within 24 hours,” Bernabe announced.