Press Release
July 4, 2009

Loren presses agri sector's access to funds
Laments big drop in production blamed by DA on climate change

ALARMED by the big drop in agricultural production in the first quarter of the year, Senator Loren Legarda yesterday called on local government units (LGUs) to help farmers and fisherfolk increase their output and income by assisting them in gaining access to largely untapped private and public financing, including the P44.4 billion now available to them under the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

"I am appealing to our governors and mayors to let their provincial and municipal agricultural officers go out to the fields to help our food producers survive this crisis," said Loren, citing a Department of Agriculture (DA) report that agriculture grew by only 2.02 percent in the first three months of 2009 compared to 3.89 in the same period last year.

"Bring the farmers and fisherfolk to the rural banks and other possible sources of capital and teach them how to access credit so they can use idle financial resources to make idle lands productive, process their produce and find markets where they can capture the highest price," said Loren.

The chair of the senate committees on agriculture and climate change concerns, Loren stressed that capital and idle resources must meet, with agricultural officers playing a key role in "the creative fusion of financial, physical and human capital in the sector."

"Let us use all the resources to stimulate agricultural and fisheries production," said Loren, who warned that the effects of climate change are now taking their toll on agriculture, resulting to increased poverty incidence in the countryside.

Based on the 2006 government estimate, poverty incidence in the Philippines stood at 33 percent of the country's population.

The DA, which revised its growth estimate for the second quarter at 1.5 percent to 2 percent compared to the actual growth rate of 5.4 percent in the second quarter of 2008, blamed the drop in production to unexpected heavy rains that hit corn producers hardest.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap had identified climate change as the single most destabilizing influence on agricultural production.

"With climate change, the country is foreseen to suffer stronger typhoons, more heavy rains, more flash floods, more devastating droughts, and incidence of water and vector-borne diseases. The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries," warned Loren.

In response, the senator said government must ensure that the additional budget of P17 billion available this year under AFMA, as well as DA's own budget allocation, will be used fully and creatively.

Since AFMA's passage in 2007, it is only this year that the government allocated the full budget mandated by the law, which is the minimum of the 1998 DA total budget of 15.7 million plus the AFMA additional budget of 17 million every year. For 2009, the 44.4 billion is presented in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for AFMA.

"If only we could get the AFMA strategies moving as they should," said Loren, referring to the Basic Needs Program, the National Information Network, the Marketing Assistance Program and the Extension Program.

Likewise, agricultural officers must act in concert with the DA even if they have local bosses in order to move the Credit Assistance and the Production and Marketing Infrastructure Program, the Human Resource Program, she said.

"I hope that on Wednesday, July 9, when the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council meets with the DA to discuss the 2010 budget--the utilization of which we are now systematizing - that it will also discuss the creative use of the current year's budget to enable our food producers to meet the challenges of the crisis."

"I thank the active participation of the private sector, the NAFC members and farmer-fisher NGOs in the systematization and monitoring of the total AFMA budget now going on in the DA. We should all join arms as we all go through these difficult times." Loren said.

Loren, the UN regional champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, just arrived from Geneva, Switzerland where she spoke in a forum on the Human Impact of Climate Change and New Challenges for Humanitarianism and Sustainable Development. In her speech, she called for good governance, environmental protection and rural development to reduce disaster risks in vulnerable countries.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had personally asked Loren in Geneva, where she spoke in a forum on the impact of climate change, to help in the campaign for "climate justice," particularly in seeking advertising and information campaign regarding the issue.

Citing the Philippines as an example of a country most vulnerable to climate change disasters, Loren said that "reducing disaster risk has become a moral imperative for governments and a social responsibility for all - when having less in life means losing life."

According to Loren, the Global Alliance for Climate Justice headed by Annan started speaking out for the cause of climate justice to ensure that people everywhere would be safe from danger and free from suffering due to climate change.

"Most of the so-called climate change refugees would come from countries that suffered irreparable damage on their environment due to climate change," she said.

"Those most vulnerable to climate change today are the world's poorest groups, since they lack the resources and means to cope with its impacts," Loren said.

Loren pointed out that developed countries must have the moral responsibility to technologically and financially assist developing countries in their climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction efforts to compensate for the inequity and injustice.

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