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Bangsamoro lawmakers file bill to boost agricultural sector’s production, economic dev’t

MARAWI CITY ― Various Bangsamoro lawmakers are working together for the enactment of Parliament Bill No. 184, or the Bangsamoro Agricultural Microfinance Act of 2023, a measure seeking to provide small-scale farmers and fisherfolks with access to credit, adequate infrastructure, market linkages, and other support services to boost their farm production and income. The proponents of the bill include Parliament Members Amilbahar Mawalllil, Atty. Rasol Mitmug Jr., Atty. Sittie Fahanie Uy-Oyod, Hashemi Dilangalen, and Hamid Malik. Recognizing the significance of agriculture in the region, MP Mawallil emphasized in the bill’s explanatory note that the sector provides livelihood to 70 percent of the population. Small-scale farmers and fisherfolk in the Bangsamoro region face numerous challenges, such as limited access to credit, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient market linkages, and low productivity resulting from outdated farming practices and climate change. These challenges, Mawallil said, have led to decreased productivity and income for these individuals. PB No. 184 seeks to establish the Regional Agricultural Microfinance Program, which will offer agricultural microfinance services to farmers and smallholders in the region. The program will be developed and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform and will be funded through various sources, including the regional government budget, grants, donations, concessional loans, and loans from commercial banks and financial institutions. To effectively deliver microfinance services to rural communities, the program will leverage mobile technology and digital platforms. Community-based microfinance institutions will be established, and capacity-building programs will be conducted to enhance the financial management skills of community leaders and members. PB No. 184 covers farmers, smallholders, microfinance institutions (MFIs), rural banks, cooperatives, and other community-based organizations that provide agricultural microfinance services in the region. Alarming data from the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2020 revealed that only 16.5 percent of households in the BARMM have savings accounts, leaving a staggering 83.5 percent of households without any form of savings. MP Mawallil stressed the importance of improving financial inclusion in the region, especially in rural areas where most small-scale farmers and fisherfolk reside. If the bill is passed into law, it has the potential to provide tailored financial services that can significantly enhance the productivity and income of small-scale farmers and fisherfolk in the Bangsamoro region. MPs Atty. Laisa Alamia, Engr. Baintan Ampatuan, Engr. Don Mustapha Loong, Atty. Suharto Ambolodto, and Rasul Ismael also co-authored PB No. 184. (BARMM Parliament/PIA Lanao del Sur)

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