AGRI LOANS. The Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) targets to increase to 3.6 million the number of small farmers and fishers that it has extended loans to this year. This, as the government financial institution intends to increase its loan portfolio, with the focus on the agriculture sector. (Photo courtesy of Landbank)

MANILA – State-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) intends to increase the number of small farmers and fishers it has assisted up to 3.6 million this year in line with the government’s bid to further uplift the agriculture sector.

In an interview after the official inauguration of the bank’s three-story Landbank Leadership and Development Center (LLDC) in the City of Manila on Tuesday, Landbank president and chief executive officer (CEO) Cecilia Borromeo said they will continue to extend financing to various programs that will boost the country’s recovery, with the focus on the agriculture sector.

“So we’re looking to support not only the small farmers but all the players of the agri-business value chain (and) even the large agri-business corporations that have very good business models and have proven themselves to be very profitable and have employed a lot of Filipinos,” she said.

Borromeo said the bank ended 2022 with more than PHP261 billion worth of loans extended to the agriculture sector, a growth of around 5 percent year-on-year.

“I believe that is the biggest loan portfolio to the agri(culture) sector,” she said, adding that loan growth for the sector is higher than the sector’s full-year output last year which is 0.5 percent.

Borromeo is optimistic of the sustained rise of lending to the agriculture sector this year but declined to give specific figures.

The bank’s focus on the agriculture sector will be further felt through its “Iskolar ng Landbank Program”, which targets to provide scholarships to 360 college level students who are dependents of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and small farmers and fishers nationwide.

The bank has allocated a total of PHP128 million for this program that will run from 2023 until 2028.

Meanwhile, Borromeo said they also intend to further boost the government’s financial digitalization bid through the expansion of the bank’s digital banking services “because we believe that that is very good way of including many Filipinos into the mainstream of banking.” (PNA)