Villar pushes for stronger agricultural insurance program

  • 17 August 2015, Monday

Source: The Philippine Star
16 Aug 2015

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – Sen. Cynthia Villar has underscored the need to improve the agricultural insurance program to reduce the damage brought about by climate change in the country’s food security and rice self-sufficiency.

“We definitely need to develop adaptive measures and strategies. Climate-resilient varieties of rice, corn, and other crops as well as pioneering procedures and advanced technologies are already being developed and used. But that is not enough,” Villar said.

Strengthening agricultural insurance will definitely complement other preventive measures,” she noted.

Villar, who heads the Committee on Agriculture and Food, made the pitch during a forum initiated by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture.           

Presentations were made by representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, all of which have an agricultural insurance program.

They shared the historical development of agricultural insurance in their country, the agricultural insurance product packages available from both public and private providers, the financial performance of the insurance program in terms of both coverage and cost  and policies relating to agricultural insurance and climate change.

Villar said the Senate is drafting a bill to expand the scope and coverage of crop insurance. “We want to strike a balance between the existing practice of providing subsidies and ensuring the sustainability or profitability of the insurance provider,” she said.

According to the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.,  during the period 1998 to 2012, crop losses brought about by typhoons, floods, droughts, plant diseases and pests reached P7 billion for corn farmers alone.

Damage to agriculture caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the country in November 2013, reached over P90 billion.  It damaged about 600,000 hectares of agricultural lands, with an estimated 1.1 million metric tons of crops lost.

SEARCA director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said the agriculture sector “is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, extreme natural conditions, and degradation of natural resources, consequently putting millions of people, particularly farmers, to greater risk of poverty and hunger.

“It is, therefore, important that we equip them with tools to effectively manage the risks and help build their resilience to these natural phenomena,” Saguiguit pointed out.

According to the 2015 Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines ranked first among countries most affected by weather-related disasters such as storms, floods, and heat waves.

A recent United Nations report also identified the Philippines, with a population of more than 100 million, as the third most vulnerable to climate change.

In general, insurance coverage in the Philippines is still relatively low.

In the Philippines, agricultural insurance is a government program that provides insurance protection to agricultural producers against loss of crops, livestock, and agricultural assets on account of natural calamities, plant pests and disease or other perils.

Agricultural insurance is usually a requirement for agricultural loans provided by the Land Bank of the Philippines.

LandBank partly subsidizes the borrower’s agricultural insurance premium rate.