MANILA – With the country in the middle of typhoon season that destroys palay (unhusked rice) and other major crops essential for food security, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan is seeking compulsory insurance for all farmers of Filipinos’ staple food.
“Mahirap na ang kalagayan ng ating mga magsasaka. Mas pinapahirap pa tuwing may mga bagyo. Ang kwento ng pagkabaon ng ating mga magsasaka sa utang ay singluma ng kuwento ni Jose Rizal sa El Filibusterismo (Our farmers are in a difficult situation which typhoons worsen. The story of our deeply indebted farmers is as old as the story of Jose Rizal in El Filibusterismo),” Pangilinan said.
In Rizal’s sequel to Noli Me Tangere, the story of Cabesang Tales and his family depicts the hard work of a toiling farmer, and how the powerful elite easily usurped their land. This unjust agrarian question has been a source of discontent and violence in the country.
“Kailangan nating tulungan ang ating mga magsasaka na masiguro na ang kanilang mga pinaghirapan ay hindi mawawala ng ganun-ganun lang, lalo na sa panahon ng mga bagyo (We should help our farmers ensure that their sacrifices are not for naught, especially during typhoon season),” Pangilinan said.
In Senate Bill 1171, or the Expanded Crop Insurance Bill, the head of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture said that for farmers who are not financially capable, the National Food Authority shall “secure the crop insurance for them, pay the insurance premium, and become at least 50% beneficiary of the insurance proceeds or claim.”
“Crop insurance shall be compulsory for those with loans for palay under supervised credit program and optional for self-financed farmers provided they agree to place themselves under the supervision of agricultural production technicians,” reads the bill.
The legislative measure seeks to ensure food security, alleviate the financial burden of farmers during calamities, and help banks in their lending capabilities.
In the explanatory note attached to the bill, Pangilinan noted that while agriculture remains the backbone of the Philippine economy, poverty incidence among farmers is 40.7%. In 2014, agriculture accounted for 11.3% of the country’s GDP and 30.5% (11.8 million people) of the total employment. About two-thirds of the population is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture.
Citing the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp., Pangilinan said only 3% (P333.93 million) of almost P10 billion worth of crops, mostly palay, were insured in 30 provinces.