Nighttime Typhoon Karding was supposed to rip through Central Luzon, I captured a video on social media that broke my heart. It was about a farmer who explained his predicament while looking longingly at his paddy field, which was about to be harvested.
Many of us don’t even think to pray for our farmers, but I’m sure many of those who saw the video did. If Karding had come by a month later, the farmer could have harvested those golden grains of rice.
The farmer was philosophical about the typhoon destroying his crops. Yun lang, sabi niya, sayang naman ang pinaghirapan niya. After Karding left, I found out that the farmer in the video had lost most of his potential rice crop.
I think our farmers are used to this annual battle with typhoons. This is one of the reasons why our farmers cannot escape poverty.
But that’s why we have a government, a ministry of agriculture, that’s supposed to support the farmers and provide what’s needed, including financial protection from natural disasters.
Typhoons visit us regularly. It’s reasonable to expect that the government should have something to protect our farmers financially when typhoons hit.
Unfortunately, through the DA, our government has failed to provide adequate insurance coverage not only for rice farmers but also for pig and chicken farmers, who have also suffered severely from epidemics in recent years.
A World Bank chart I saw shows that government agricultural insurance coverage fell from 43 percent to about 38 percent from 2009 to 2020.
The need for peasant protection is obvious. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the government’s think tank, pointed out that Typhoons Yolanda (Haiyan) and Ompong (Mangkhut) caused $35 billion worth of agricultural damage.
“With a third of the country’s workforce dependent on the agricultural sector, it is vital that efforts are made to mitigate the impact of these shocks and risks. One such endeavor is agricultural insurance, as offered by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).
“Compensation provided by the PCIC to disaster-hit farmers has been significantly limited to those with large land holdings – a dilemma attributed to the lack of education among small farmers.”
A discussion paper released by PIDS revealed a lack of information among smallholders about crop insurance, which would provide a safety net from financial shocks. This lack of awareness of the PCIC is the main reason for the minimal participation of rice farmers in agricultural insurance programs.
According to PIDS, this could have been particularly beneficial for the sector’s small farmers, who account for 88.9 percent of farms and 48.4 percent of the country’s total agricultural land. In fact, PIDS pointed out that as of 2015, even LGU officials and staff admitted they were ignorant of PCIC’s programs.
Even though PCIC has been around for over 40 years, there is still this communication gap with the intended beneficiaries. Perhaps those who lead PCIC do not have the sense of mission necessary to do their jobs.
PIDS recommends an amendment to PCIC’s decades-old charter that would also allow PCIC to offer reinsurance.
“Expanding its role as a reinsurer to other companies willing to offer agricultural insurance … will lead to higher penetration rates while keeping pricing at affordable and competitive levels,” said the leading think tank.
“Having more companies offering agricultural insurance will result in higher penetration rates while keeping pricing at affordable and competitive levels,” the PIDS research paper states.
So we know the problem. Next on the agenda is for the DA and PCIC to work together to increase the number of farmers covered by insurance. Farmers grow our food. We should not let them deal with the whims of nature alone. Our government has to help.
Marita V. Tolentino-Reyes, MD, chair of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), responded to our column last Friday.
It’s a long letter, but let me get to the important parts.
The HTAC recommendations are intended to guide Department of Health procurement. She denied that they delayed the introduction. “In fact, she published her recommendation for the first booster doses on November 3, 2021, followed by that for the second booster doses on April 28, 2022…”
This is a month after the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended a second mRNA COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for adults on March 29, 2022. I assume they used the same clinical trial results submitted by the same pharmaceutical companies as reviewed the same relevant articles in medical journals.
dr Reyes: “Vaccine expiration dates are not a sufficient reason to push for vaccines. For any other health technology, our health experts prescribe the best choice for people, not because they are ‘sayang.’
Agree on this point. But that is not the point. The point is that the second booster is already accepted practice in other countries with stricter regulatory systems than ours.
Of course we want security. But that is no longer an issue for the US FDA, CDC. What else are our on-site experts looking for that is worth waiting for? Eventually we will follow them anyway.
The US CDC is urging people to get their booster shots up to date, and that means a third booster of the bivalent vaccine that covers the Omicron variants for the best protection. Singapore has also approved this bivalent vaccine.
So, no Filipino is up to date because now we’re not even talking about this bivalent booster. We’re not as protected, especially from Omicron variants, as we could be.
I come from a family of doctors. My late father was a medical professor with a master’s degree in public health. My oldest sister was also a medical professor and also served the longest time at the US NIH. I understand and respect HTAC’s scientific process and responsibility.
But a little urgency would be nice since COVID cases are on the rise again, according to the DOH. We seniors want all the protection we can get.
Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco