This is in response to news articles regarding the loan application of Al Sahar Agri Ventures, Inc. (ASAVI) with Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) amounting to P1.6 billion for the development of its 1,333 hectares of Cavendish Banana corporate farm in Maguindanao.
LANDBANK approved the loan on January 10, 2017 under the Bank`s "Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation" or HARVEST Program for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to boost the agriculture sector in and around the BARMM, and promote lasting peace and development in Mindanao.
On February 7, 2017, the Bank sent ASAVI a Notice of Loan Approval (NOLA), with a Loan Agreement. However, ASAVI did not sign the agreement because it was unable to comply with the submission of a Cross Surety, which is part of the reasonable pre-requisites for a clean loan.
The banana company only reverted back to LANDBANK in August 2018 or a year after, and only to inform the Bank that they are already working on the compliance of the requirements.
LANDBANK has been vigorously pursuing programs in the BARMM area that contribute to the local economy and In empowering farmers in the region in response to the directive of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to help uplift the lives of small farmers In the countryside.
As of August 31, 2019, seventy-seven (77) accounts of farmers` cooperatives and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are already enrolled under the HARVEST Program amounting to P215.83 million, while a total of thirty-seven (37) accounts which amounts to P506.79 million are awaiting concurrence from JICA for enrolment to the HARVEST Program.
Moreover, LANDBANK also assisted a total of 16,108 farmers in Maguindano and Lanao del Sur. As of August 31, 2019, outstanding loans In Maguindanao reached P1.9 billion, while in Lanao del Sur, P243.29 million. These supported SMEs, large agri-corporations, countryside financial institutions (CFI) and cooperatives, as well as individual farmers under the Bank`s various loan programs, namely, the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), Empowering Barangays In Remote Areas through Credit and Enterprise (EMBRACE), and the Sikat Saka Programs, among others.
It is unfortunate that farmers employed in ASAVI have been affected by this development. We recognize their dilemma and understand their concerns.
In fact, LANDBANK, through our local Lending Center, has been in touch with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) and the Ministry of Local Government (MLG) in BARMM to set a meeting on Wednesday, October 9, to further discuss how we can extend our assistance to affected farmers through the Bank`s direct lending programs for individual farmers.
JULIO D. CLIMACO, JR.
Executive Vice President
Land Bank of the Philippines