THE House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a measure that mandates full insurance coverage to farmer-beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in order to provide aid and relief for them in times of natural calamities, pest infestations, or even death.
With an overwhelming 271 votes, the chamber approved House Bill (HB) No. 6680, which consolidated and harmonized HB Nos. 3178 and 3839 introduced by Reps. Ralph Recto and Kristine Singson-Meehan, respectively.
“This measure, if enacted into law, is envisioned to help farmers recover from the adverse effects of circumstances that are beyond
their control, such as natural calamities, the infestation of plant diseases and pests, or even death and injury of the beneficiary,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said.
“This is part of our legislative commitment to ensure food security by helping the hands that feed the nation—our farmers—and make sure they bounce back from any event that may affect their ability to produce the food we have on our tables,” he added.
HB 6680 amends Republic Act No. 6657, as amended by Republic Act No. 9700, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988.”
The measure aims to provide immediate financial assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the event of natural calamities to make their losses more bearable and to mitigate the effects of these occurrences by providing full insurance coverage to these farmers.
Under the approved bill, full insurance coverage is granted to all qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries who are actually tilling the land for compensable losses that are also defined under the measure.
HB 6680 also defined who the qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries are, and they are those mentioned in Section 3(b) of Republic Act No. 10000, otherwise known as the “Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act of 2009.”
Compensable losses, mea while, include those resulting from:
I. Natural calamities such as typhoon, flood, drought, earthquake, volcanic eruption, frost, and other destructive natural phenomena such as heat and hot wind;
II. Plant diseases caused by pathogens, bacteria, fungi, viruses, virus-like pathogens, and other similar foreign bodies;
III. Pest infestations caused by nematodes, insects, mites and spiders, millipedes and centipedes, symphylans, slugs and snails, sow bugs and pillbugs, parasitic higher plants, and other parasites; and
IV. Loss of life or injury to the qualified agrarian reform beneficiary due to accident or any of the aforementioned causes.
For purposes of insurance coverage, the following crops and other farming and fishery produce are covered under the measure:
I. Palay, corn, sugarcane, high-value crops as defined in Section 4(b) of Republic Act No. 7900, otherwise known as the ‘High-Value Crops Development Act of 1995’, coconut, tobacco; II. Crops or stocks in fisheries farms; III. Livestock; and IV. Non-crop agricultural assets used in actual farming and reported to and certified by the DAR.
The measure also provides penalties for farmer-beneficiaries who may misuse or divert the financial aid granted under the measure, including forfeiture of the land transferred to him or her, without prejudice to criminal prosecution.
Upon enactment into law, the measure mandates the Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform to include the operationalization of the insurance coverage in their respective programs.
“Further, a Congressional Oversight Committee for the Full Insurance Coverage of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (COCFICARB) is hereby created. It shall be composed of the Chairperson of the Committee on Agrarian Reform of the House of Representatives and the Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform of the Senate of the Philippines …”