'Farmers hit by Taal ashfall need aid, not loans'
Residents bathe and clean ash-coated farm animals in Taal lake after rescuing them from a farm in Barangay Bignay, Batangas on Monday, following Taal Volcano's eruption.
The STAR/Miguel De Guzman

'Farmers hit by Taal ashfall need aid, not loans'

(Philstar.com) - January 14, 2020 - 5:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — Farmers whose crops have been affected by ashfall from Taal Volcano should get financial grants from the government and not loans, Rep. Lawrence Fortun (Agusan Del Norte) said Tuesday.

The Department of Agriculture has announced that farmers can avail of three-year zero-interest loans of P25,000 under its Survival and Recovery loan program, but Fortun said affected farmers should not have to pay the government back for assistance.

"Dear Department of Agriculture, please do not give loans to farmers who already lost everything because of the Taal Volcano eruption. [They must] be outright grants with no repayment provision. Nawala na nga sa kanila ang lahat, pagbabayarin pa (They have lost everything and they'll still have to pay)?" he said in a press statement.

"Our taxes should be enough to cover the emergency aid," he said, adding the government should be able to relocate displaced farmers and fisherfolk at low repayment rates. 

"Government should also consider providing displaced fisherfolk families immediate arrangements for housing in any of the fishing towns of Laguna de Bay," he also said.

In a separate statement, the National Federation of Peasant Women, or Amihan, called on the DA to use its P1-billion quick response fund to help affected farmers and fishers.

"The loss of their sources of livelihood has left the affected families especially the peasant women anxious and distressed. Kagyat na tulong ang kailangan nila, hindi pautang. (They need help, not a loan) The government should provide immediate relief and compensation for farmers and fisherfolk," Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

In an advisory on Monday night, the DA said that ashfall in Cuenca, Lemery and Taal in Batangas has already affected 752 hectares of agricultural land and has caused an initial P74.55 million in damage to crops. 

The ash is also expected to damage around 6,000 fish cages on the lake and will affect stocks of tawilis and tilapia.

"[P]roduction loss is estimated at 15,033 metric tons since fishkill is expected in Taal Lake due to high sulfur content brought by the volcanic eruption, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources," the Agriculture department also said.

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