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One Network Bank wants farmers to take the lead in loans

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/10 March) – Mindanao-based One Network Bank (ONB) is eyeing to give more credits to farmers, particularly those involved in the productions of banana, rubber and palm oil, to boost the bank’s lending accounts.

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Alex V. Buenaventura, the bank’s president, said that at present, salary loans by public teachers comprise 53 percent of their loan accounts while loans from the agriculture sector are a measly 8 percent.

“We want to reduce salary loans in proportion and focus on agriculture. The reason is that agriculture has a tremendous impact on countryside development,” he said. Buenaventura added that it may be hard to train farmers to become farm managers, “but it is worth the trouble.”

He said they are looking at the developing of a loan and credit package for the rubber industry in Zamboanga Sibugay, which is the top rubber producer in the region.

Antonio P. Avelino, ONB vice chairman, said they are still in the process of studying in giving loans to rubber farmers since it takes a rubber farm seven years for it to be productive, when the trees are already mature.

Top officials of the bank were here last Tuesday to inaugurate its third branch at the village of Guiwan, making it ONB’s 81st branch throughout Mindanao.

ONB, the consolidation of three Mindanao banks in 2004, is planning to put up another branch in Sangali village located in the eastern coast of this city, and one branch each in Davao Oriental, Butuan City and Sultan Kudarat.

The bank is also expanding in the Visayas and Luzon, Buenaventura said

“We are going to Visayas by the end of this year with at least five branches in Ilo-ilo City. Eventually within three to four years we will be going to Luzon,” he said.

Last year, ONB posted P278 million in net income or a 19-percent increase over the previous year’s performance. Deposits have also increased by 37 percent, from P6.887 billion in 2009 to P9.428 billion last year.

Buenaventura said ONB has have no plans to become a commercial bank, preferring to remain a rural bank.

“We have no plan even if we have a commercial bank’s capital next year,” he said.

“Number one reason,” he said, “is that we don’t want to change our rural or countryside orientation. We’re going to stick to our business philosophy of countryside banking,” Buenaventura stressed.

He said they are happy being “the number one rural bank.”

“If we are going to be a commercial bank, we will be the smallest commercial back. Why want to be a small fish in a big pond when we are the big fish in a small pond?” Buenaventura pointed out.

He said there are around 750 rural banks with more than 2,200 offices throughout the country.

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“Our competitors are not the rural banks but the commercial banks since we do commercial banking in rural areas,” he said.

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(Contributed by Darwin Wally T. Wee / Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

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