Press Release
November 21, 2013

As Yolanda wipes out a third of country's rice production
Recto pushes for special insurance for rice, corn farmers

As agricultural damages continue to mount due to the recent onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto pushed for the immediate passage of a bill establishing a special insurance program for rice and corn farmers heavily hit by calamities.

"This piece of legislation aims to aid our rice and corn farmers in times of severe calamity. Right now, typhoon Yolanda alone had been estimated to have wiped out a third of the country's rice-growing areas. We need to act fast if we are to arrest this very sudden decline in rice production," Recto explained.

No less than the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for urgent assistance to Filipino farmers because of the damage dealt not only by Yolanda, but that of typhoon Santi that ravaged farmlands in northern Luzon in October.

"If we want to avoid entire regions of the country having to rely on food aid, we need to act now to help vulnerable families to plant or replant by late December," the FAO said in its most recent statement, saying it estimates Yolanda to have caused crop losses worth $110 million and inflicted damage to the agriculture sector of more than twice that figure.

This is why Recto is calling for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 714 entitled, "Special Rice and Corn Insurance Program of 2013," which establishes a special insurance program that will enable rice and corn farmers cultivating land with a maximum area of five (5) hectares to replant as soon as weather and soil condition permits.

"The devastation caused by Yolanda should be addressed on all fronts. While we plan for the rehabilitation and recovery of all those affected by the typhoon, we should also ensure the least disruption in crop production, ensuring food security and farm incomes," he said.

"The FAO is right when it expressed urgency in aiding our farmers. Instead of having them rely on food aid from relief operations for a longer period of time, they should instead be assisted in tending to the damages caused to their farmlands."

Under the bill, the premium for the insurance shall be fully-paid for by the State through the Special Rice and Corn Insurance Program to be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

Recto also urged Malacanang to certify the bill as urgent, saying that the peculiar climate of the Philippines increases the vulnerabilities in agriculture that consequently expand the mandates of government agencies.

"We may be facing more Yolandas in the future. The need to institutionalize a system to aid our farmers get back on their feet in the soonest possible time becomes even more apparent," he explained.

"If agricultural production continues to bear most of the damage every time a typhoon passes our country, then we may be facing a food crisis sooner than we expect if we don't extend assistance to our farmers."

Recto added that aside from rice and corn, he is also open to the inclusion of other crops in his proposed insurance system.

Aside from extreme weather conditions, diseases and pest infestations similarly lead to crop losses.

"In order to recover from these damages and to plant anew, farmers need assistance through access to agriculture extension services and immediate capital infusion to acquire needed inputs," Recto stated.

The measure also attempts to address the seeming helplessness rice and corn farmers feel when calamities such as the recent typhoon damage hundreds of millions of pesos of croplands.

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