MANILA, Philippines — The flagship lending program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported a 100 percent repayment record in the Cordilleras as the government aims to improve the country’s lending for the sector.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said vegetable farmers of Cordillera who availed P6.1 million under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program enjoyed a 100 percent repayment record.

“When I introduced this program, I was met with comments by oppositionists who said that farmers and fishermen have a reputation of not paying back their loans. I argued that credit should be made easier for our farmers and fisher folks because this is critical to their productivity,” Piñol said.

According to the ACPC, 83 percent of the farmer borrowers in the Cordillera are first time borrowers of the partner conduits and formal lenders.

“If this continues, the DA will be able to reach farmers who are called by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as ‘financially excluded’ meaning they had no access to formal credit,” ACPC executive director Joyce Badiola said.

The PLEA is a non-collateralized loaning program with funds coming from the DA-attached agency Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) which channels it through accredited rural banks, credit cooperatives and farmers associations.

It imposes a six percent interest per year which goes to the conduit banks and loans ranging from P5,000 to P50,000 for various crops and could reach up to P50 million for farm equipment.

Since its launch early this year, 48 provinces have been covered by the PLEA and a total of P750 million has been transferred to 117 lending conduits which extended loans to 28,266 farmers and fishermen.

“As an added safeguard to the loaning program, I have directed ACPC to assign a project management officer for every loan package in specific areas where the PLEA is now being granted,” Piñol said.

Source: Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star’s December 17, 2017 issue)

Highland farmers from Benguet present their ATM cards through which they can withdraw their loans under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA) program. (Photo by Lordyxon de los Reyes of ACPC)