Iloilo province launches program to support El Niño-affected farmers

Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr. (center) and officials present a P15 million check to the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) for the Sustainable Insurance from the Government for Upscaling and Revitalizing the Agri-fisheries Developments and Opportunities (SIGURADO) project on Tuesday, March 5. This collaboration with regional leaders from PCIC, the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) marks a concerted effort to tackle the challenges faced by the agri-fisheries sector in the region. (Capitol handout)

By Mariela Angella Oladive

The Iloilo provincial government, in cooperation with the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), initiated the Sustainable Insurance from the Government for Upscaling and Revitalizing the Agri-fishery Development and Opportunities (SIGURADO) program on March 5.

The initiative aims to mitigate the effects of the El Niño weather pattern on local agriculture and fisheries.

Governor Arthur Defensor, Jr. and the head of the Provincial Agriculture Office, Dr. Ildefonso Toledo, led the event, which featured a P15 million check presentation to PCIC President Atty. Jovy Bernabe to jumpstart the project.

Defensor highlighted the program’s role as a crucial strategy to confront El Niño’s challenges, emphasizing a policy shift towards giving farmers access to insurance rather than conventional aid.

“This is better than doling out small aid amounts; our farmers and fisherfolk can obtain more significant benefits under this program,” he said.

He also announced the forthcoming addition of another PHP 10 million from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO).

Bernabe recognized the substantial impact of the province’s contribution, explaining that the PHP 15 million could potentially yield PHP30 million in claims for the afflicted farmers.

He explained that this sum would complement a PHP200 million allocation for about 120,000 local farmers this year, expressing the program’s intent to multiply the province’s investment to maximize benefits for farmers.

Bernabe also mentioned the systematic implementation of the program, ensuring it adheres to specific criteria rather than being distributed indiscriminately.

Meanwhile, Toledo explained the specifics of the SIGURADO program, noting eligible individuals could receive insurance premiums of PHP2,000 and could claim up to PHP20,000 in financial support for losses due to calamities, including those related to El Niño.

He drew attention to the immediate need for this support, citing over PHP 400 million in estimated damages to rice crops as of March 4.

The calamity impacted 7,931.75 hectares of the 16,000 hectares of rice crops in 16 towns, affecting approximately 8,600 rice farmers.

SIGURADO aims to supplement existing PCIC insurance coverage, especially benefiting farmers not registered in the agency’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

PCIC, as the national agricultural insurance body, provides coverage against a variety of natural disasters, plant diseases, pest infestations, and even includes protection for non-crop agricultural assets.

PCIC’s regional manager for Western Visayas, Eva Laud, spoke on the insurance program’s inclusivity, offering seven services designed to protect farmers and fisherfolk from diverse risks.

She noted that Iloilo is the third province in the region to establish such an agreement with PCIC, following Negros Occidental and Capiz.

The launch was attended by regional dignitaries, including OCD Regional Director Raul Fernandez and Senior Agriculturist Gareth Bayate on behalf of DA 6 Regional Director Dennis Arpia.

Farmers and fisherfolk interested in the SIGURADO program are encouraged to engage with their Municipal Agriculture Officers (MAOs) to seek assistance.