LANDBANK and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) recently launched a financing facility to boost the agriculture sector in and around the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its neighboring conflict-affected areas, and to help promote lasting peace and development in the region.
LANDBANK President and CEO Alex Buenaventura, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Cotabato Director Wendell Orbeso, Embassy of Japan First Secretary Tetsuharu Mori, and JICA Philippines Senior Representative Yo Ebisawa led the launching of the program called “HARVEST,” which is welcome news at the heels of the recent passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
HARVEST stands for Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation. It is a ¥4.928 billion (Php2.12 billion) official development assistance (ODA) from JICA that seeks to provide concessional loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), corporatives (plantation farm management services), large agribusiness enterprises, cooperatives, and participating financial institutions in ARMM and its neighboring conflict-affected areas.
This five-year relending facility will give private enterprises access to a credit line with LANDBANK for their capital investments, operations, expansion initiatives, and agriculture-related projects that support agri-related economic activities in the region.
“By improving access to finance and stimulating economic activities, the cooperation aims to help create jobs, improve living standards, and contribute to peace building,” noted Ebisawa.
In the Philippines, farmers remain one of the country’s poorest sectors, with a poverty incidence reaching 34.3% based on a 2015 report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority. The situations are worse in the conflict-affected areas.
“Giving them access to finance will help sustain job creation and raise their productivity through equipment and trainings, while also boosting the region’s agro-industry sector,” Ebisawa added.
Under the program, JICA will provide human resource training and technical assistance to LANDBANK, agriculture cooperatives, and other participating institutions.
“Through the investment opportunities in agribusiness, we hope to help fuel growth in a region beleaguered by decades-old conflict, and ultimately uplift the quality of lives of our fellow Filipinos in these communities,” LANDBANK’s Buenaventura said.
Aside from financial support, those who avail of the loans under the HARVEST project will also be provided with technical assistance in the form of capacity-building trainings, seminars, and market linkage initiatives.
LANDBANK and JICA signed the loan agreement for the HARVEST project on January 12, 2017, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte leading the bilateral signing ceremony held at the Malacañang Palace.