By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries on Thursday asked the government to provide financial relief to farmers and fisherfolk who are affected by the El Niño phenomenon.
Leyte Rep. Henry Ong said contingency measures should be put in place to mitigate the impact of and damages brought about by El Niño to the agriculture sector.
“Droughts bring financial hardships to farmers and fisherfolk. For crop failures, the banks and other lenders must have condonation, debt restructuring, and other debt payment relief,” he said in a statement.
“Last year, farmers and fisherfolk suffered from elevated inflation and now, if their crops wither in the heat and if the fish die from red tide and elevated water temperatures, they will not even have money to tide them over for months,” he said.
Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez had earlier called on the government to provide loans to distressed farmers.
She sought concerted and united efforts in national and local level to mitigate the impact of El Niño and damages to the agriculture sector, as this phenomenon would definitely affect the water supply in major dams in Luzon, including Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
“The national government and LGUs (local government units) should assist farmers not only with food supplies but also with loans to tide them over while the drought has yet to abate, apart from possible cloud seeding operations in affected areas. We should also ensure enough power supply,” Romualdez, chairperson of the House Committee on Accounts, said.
Ong also urged the Land Bank to extend proper courtesies to pregnant mothers and elderly who get their Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) allowances and benefits.
“This summer, I worry about the seniors and mothers who line up in the scorching heat outside the Land Bank automated teller machines (ATMs) to get their Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) allowances and benefits. I ask the banks to extend to them the proper courtesies due to any bank customer and the special privileges for seniors and pregnant women,” he said.
In the previous years, the prolonged dry spell had damaged billions of pesos worth of crops.