The Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA has announced that it has agreed to lend Land Bank of the Philippines a big amount of money to jumpstart agribusiness investments in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

JICA is going to lend Land Bank as much as P1.76 Billion. This is for the purpose of raising farmers' incomes and jumpstarting agribusiness in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM. Landbank is currently carrying out a new program called HARVEST. That stands for Harnessing Agribusiness Through Robust and Vibrant Entrepreneurship Support of Peaceful Transformation.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said that the terms of the Land Bank loan are very liberal and the interest rates so lowthat the loans can be viewed almost like semi-grants. The HARVEST program is actually in the list of projects that the Philippines has submitted to Japan for possible financing. The indicative total cost of the list of projects is P315 billion.

It was during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's two-day visit here last January that the loan deal was agreed upon. Apart from this loan agreement, JICA has also expressed willingness to give the Philippines a $6 million technical grant or P290 million. This is intended to support projects of eligible beneficiaries of project HARVEST and other initiatives aimed at improving farming techniquesto raise farmers' incomes at the ARMM.

The interest of the loan is a low 1.4 per cent per annum, and the repayment period is 18 years, with a seven-year grace period. That brings the total maturity period of the loan to 25 years for the HARVEST program which will run from 2017 to 2022. Landbank shall oversee and implement the program which will open a lending window for agribusiness ventures at the ARMM and other conflict areas in Mindanao.

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