THE Provincial Government of Bohol will buy fish directly from local fishermen’s associations and take care of selling this to traders in a bid to provide a ready market for the groups’ daily catch and reduce the selling price of fish to consumers in the province.

This was announced by Land Bank of the Philippines, which is the local government unit’s partner in the scheme that is expected to be initially implemented in four municipalities as early as this month.

Bohol Gov. Erico Aristotle Aumentado and Landbank president and chief executive officer Cecilia Cayosa Borromeo signed the memorandum of agreement for the Fish Buy Back Program at the Bohol Provincial Capitol in Tagbilaran City last March 10, the bank said in a statement.

Landbank’s role in the program is to provide low-cost financing to the parties involved, and to facilitate the disbursement of cashless payments.

The municipalities of Talibon, Bien Unido, Getafe and Buenavista would be the priority areas for the implementation of the program, with the program to head to other areas in the province eventually.

Some 25 fishers’ associations are part of the program, and Landbank would provide loans to these associations through the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

The loans would support “the acquisition of fishing equipment such as fishing boats, marine engines, and fish nets, as well as production inputs for fish cage culture,” the bank said.

Landbank would also provide loans to “10 partner fish vendor and trader groups for the purchase of local fish catch from the Provincial Government, including its commercial distribution, at a price lower than the prevailing market price,” it added.

Landbank has already approved a total of P162.8 million in loans for 17 fishers’ associations and seven fish trader groups that will enjoy an annual interest rate of as low as two percent. The repayment period would be five years, payable every six months from the date of the initial drawdown.

All payments between the Provincial Government, fishers’ associations and trader groups under the program will be done on a cashless basis, which means the payments will be facilitated through Landbank’s iAccess and weAccess facilities.

Members of the fishers’ associations were also urged to use the bank’s mobile banking app and LandbankPay to enjoy free and real-time fund transfers, the bank said.

“I’d like to thank Landbank for allowing us to have this project. We cannot do it without your support,” said Governor Aumentado.

“We are pleased to take part in this timely and impactful initiative to advance the local fishing industry, which will benefit both local fishers and consumers,” Landbank president Borromeo said in turn.

Also present at the signing were former trade assistant secretary and now Bohol Provincial Administrator Asteria Caberte, Landbank senior vice presidents Elsie Fe NB. Tagupa and Khurshid U. Kalabud, and the participating fishers’ associations, and fish vendor and trader groups.