SENATOR Imee Marcos has revived her call to expand crop insurance for farmers, as typhoon Rolly threatens to obliterate thousands of hectares of the country’s major rice, corn, coconut and vegetable crops.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said farmers in Ilocandia through Central Luzon and Bicol are already deep in debt in the wake of recent typhoons that flattened ricelands in the middle of the main October harvest.
Marcos added that farmers whose crops were not insured are unlikely to recover in the next planting season.
“We may be confronted with massive shortages, compelled to import, and the vicious cycle just widens and deepens. Even before GAA 2021 is passed, we should increase the government’s crop insurance pay-outs ASAP,” Marcos said.
“Covered by sufficient insurance, farmers may have a fighting chance to survive this lost harvest season. Until relevant legislation is passed, farmers will have little means to cope with natural calamities or pest infestations,” Marcos added.
Marcos filed Senate Bill 883 in August last year to insure more farmers and fisherfolk covered by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), counting only 2.27 million or 33.5% of their total number, as of 2018.
Farmers will not need to wait for a state of calamity to be declared or agricultural damage to be assessed before they can collect on their insurance, according to the bill.
“A farmer would be able to automatically avail of payment even at the height of a typhoon, as soon as predetermined rainfall and windspeed thresholds are reached in what we call an index-based system,” Marcos explained.
“Farmers in far-flung areas will have an alternative to the traditional system that offers higher pay-outs but requires the tedious filing of claims and assessment of damages,” Marcos added.
To give private insurers greater confidence in backing up agricultural investments, the Marcos bill also seeks to enable the PCIC as a reinsurance agency that will cover agricultural insurance left out by the Philippine National Reinsurance Corporation (NatRe).
“Sustaining farmers and fisherfolk through crop insurance will also intensify food production and food security,” Marcos said.
A better-funded and expanded crop insurance program is long overdue, Marcos added, citing a World Risk Index Report in 2017 that ranked the Philippines the third most vulnerable nation to natural disasters.