MANILA, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday said it has approved a 400 million U.S. dollar policy-based loan to support reforms by the Philippine government aimed at raising the productivity and competitiveness of the country's agriculture sector and significantly reducing poverty in rural areas.
The Manila-based multilateral lender said the Competitive and Inclusive Agriculture Development Program, Subprogram 1, will help the government expand economic opportunities in the farm sector by implementing trade policy and regulatory reforms, enhancing public services and finance to the sector, and expanding social protection to rural families.
"The Philippines has made tremendous strides in reducing the national poverty rate, but rural poverty remains high because of low productivity and limited crop diversification," ADB Vice President Ahmed Saeed said in a statement.
Saeed said the new loan "will support the government's comprehensive suite of policy and regulatory reforms, resolving institutional weaknesses in land and water management, expanding agricultural financing to boost productivity, and extending the social safety net to unserved and underserved rural families."
The Philippines' agriculture industry employs a quarter of the country's labor force. But the ADB said the sector lags behind counterparts in other Southeast Asian countries in productivity growth and competitiveness.
The ADB said poverty rates in rural Philippines remains high, as do child malnutrition and stunting.
It said the government has identified agriculture as a priority area for reform under its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic economic recovery program, as it seeks to ensure food security and reduce poverty in the country.