Insurance Consciousness Week focuses on insuring the poor

PIRA Chairman Michael Rellosa explains a point.

The devastation caused by typhoon Juan (international name: Megi) to Northern Luzon highlighted the vulnerability of Filipino farmers to natural forces. Yet how can these farmers protect themselves?

The answer is through micro insurance.

Micro insurance will be the focus of this year’s Insurance Consciousness Week being observed from October 26 to 30 by the 85 member companies of the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association (PIRA).

In an interview, PIRA Chairman Michael Rellosa said micro insurance, or insurance for the poor and the marginalized, will be the main highlight of the ICW. It will be the tenth year since an executive order declaring one week a year for insurance consciousness promotion was signed by then President Joseph Estrada.

“Nature has once again reminded all us of the importance of being insured. Last year it was tropical storm Ondoy that flooded cars and houses. Now it’s typhoon Juan that devastated our farm lands. We really need to develop micro insurance to protect our poor countrymen who are exposed to various risks, including natural calamities,” he said.

Rellosa noted that local insurance companies are now developing products for farmers. One example is the crop insurance of one company that insures the capital used by the farmer in planting his field. The insurance company will indemnify the farmer for the capital he used should the area be declared under a state of calamity.

He added that all over the world, insurance groups are looking at micro insurance as a tool to alleviate poverty. German reinsurance firm MunichRe, for one, is sponsoring the 6th International Microinsurance Conference which will be held in the Philippines next month.

The event is expected to draw at least 500 participants and over 80 speakers and facilitators from around the world who will exchange experiences and discuss the challenges of micro insurance. These participants include representatives from insurance and reinsurance companies, international organisations, NGOs, development-aid agencies, academics, policymakers, regulators and supervisors.

Rellosa said micro insurance is still facing various challenges in areas of distribution, claims handling and the lack of insurance literacy among the poor.

“Right now, majority of our countrymen view insurance as an added expense when they should consider it as an investment and as a tool to manage the risks that they cannot handle. We need to educate them and the ICW is one way of reaching out to them,” he said.

PIRA has once again partnered with the Philippine Insurers Club (PIC) for the ICW that carries the theme “Promoting Security and Stability Through Insurance Awareness.”

PIC President Leticia Pagharion said the week will commence with a Thanksgiving Mass at the Insurance Commission, to be followed by dialogues with marginalized sectors like tricycle drivers on their perception of insurance and how the industry can develop products and plans to make them appreciate insurance better. Charity works have also been lined up. The week will end in Davao City for some important activities such as a motorcade, a talk with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and a dialogue with the Davao Insurers Club on how the people of Mindanao appreciate insurance.

Some of the houses submerged in Ondoy's flood last year.

Aside from the ICW and the Micro Insurance Conference, PIRA is also co-hosting the ASEAN Insurance Council meetings of insurance regulators and industry leaders from Southeast Asia. The association is also backing the Young ASEAN Managers Awards which recognize the promising future leaders of the region.

“We can therefore say that in the four weeks that will follow, all eyes of the insurance industry in the region will be focused on the Philppines. It is PIRA’s privilege to be given this opportunity. As the umbrella organization of all non-life insurance companies in the country, PIRA will perform its role as the voice of the industry and promote the importance of insurance to everyone,” Rellosa said.

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