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By: Vanessa Almeda | Published Monday, May 25, 2020
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia meets with government bank officials to discuss her administration’s thrust of invigorating the local economy by supporting countryside growth as part of the "new normal." (Junjie Mendoza)

Three government banks agreed to partner with the Cebu Provincial Government's program to capacitate fisherfolks, as well as farmers who grow rice and corn, as it readies for the Enhanced Countryside Development (ECD).

LandBank of the Philippines (LandBank), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Philippine Veterans Bank (Veterans Bank) all agreed to create a common fund that will bankroll the program aiming to achieve a self-sufficient Cebu.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia met with bank officials last Thursday, May 21, and discussed her administration's thrust of invigorating the local economy by supporting countryside growth as part of the "new normal."

Back in mid-April, when Cebu was still placed in an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the governor already held initial talks with the business and health sectors in redirecting development to the rural countryside, while encouraging businessmen to rethink economic strategies based on the new normal.

Now, it is slowly taking shape with the banks’ committment of providing financial assistance to farmers and fisherfolks.

During Thursday's meeting, it was agreed that the start-up fund will amount P20 billion. Mechanics of the program such as interest rates, packages and others will still be finalized by the government banks. 

Funding will be available to all —
marginalized farmers, small and medium farm organizations, up to large agriculture enterprises, the governor said.

"We have to give hope to the people, and we have to manage this fear and turn this into hope," Garcia told bank executives, as she emphasized the need to give people the hope that the government is doing something amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ofelia M. Oliva, Veterans Bank vice president and product and development division head, expressed her full support to the program and said that "this is such a great signal that Cebu is already translating into action its plans."

Capitol consultant and former 4th District Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, who also attended the meeting, said about 4,000 hectares of idle land in northern Cebu is available for development. 

The land, which was once used as sugarcane plantation, is ready for mechanized farming.

Daanbantayan Mayor Sun Shimura also volunteered that one barangay in the town is ready to take part in the program and plant corn.

Provincial Agriculture Officer Dr. Roldan Saragena said the province's white corn sufficiency is only 37 percent. The remaining 63 percent is sourced outside of Cebu.

He added that for Cebu to achieve 100 percent self sufficiency for corn, it will need 38,000 hectares of land that could produce 144,021.21 metric tons of corn.

Garcia ordered an inventory of the province's land and properties where rice and corn could be planted. (Vanessa L. Almeda)