Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Wednesday suggested that the government fast-track the release of financial aid to COVID quarantine-affected farmers by decentralizing disbursement from Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).
Malacañan’s fifth report to Congress submitted 27 April 2020 showed that the Department of Agriculture’s financial subsidy to rice farmers (FSRF) reached only 53,881 (or 9.11%) out of 591,246 targeted farmers, and P645 million of FSRF’s P3 billion has been utilized.
“The disbursement of the FSRF has been painfully slow because it is still centralized with Land Bank. The Bayanihan Law was passed with so much urgency precisely to fast-track help to those who need it most,” Pangilinan pointed out.
To overcome the long process of printing cash cards and Land Bank’s limited banking hours and branches, the farmer-senator suggested that government also use third party partners like the Development Bank of the Philippines, countryside financial institutions, cooperatives, telecommunications companies, remittance centers, rural banks-managed ATMs, and other similar entities.
The government-imposed lockdown on logistics and public transport has clogged the food supply chain, causing the absurd situation of hungry Metro Manila residents and a glut in agricultural crops in food-producing areas.
“The use of other disbursement options is already allowed under the Bayanihan Law,” said Pangilinan, citing Section 4 of the law authorizing the President to exercise powers that are necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy.
Pangilinan has also called on local government officials to directly buy their for-distribution food packs from farmers. He noted that the Government Procurement Policy Board of the Department of Budget and Management has allowed direct purchase with minimal documentation requirements.
“Pwede nang diretsong mabilhan ang mga magsasaka kahit na certification lang mula sa mga barangay na siya nga ay magsasaka,” he said.
Pangilinan said a system of direct purchase will benefit everyone: the consumer with lower food cost and the farmer with guaranteed, and possibly increased, income.