Recto revives bill on debt amnesty to farmers under CARP

Published July 13, 2019, 5:01 PM

by Rica Arevalo

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

A bill that would grant amnesty on all the debts that farmers incurred in the process of land ownership under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is revived in the Senate.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto (Ali Vicoy / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto (Ali Vicoy / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is pushing anew for the approval of the measure seeking to condone all unpaid amortizations, interests, penalties, surcharges on loans of farmers under CARP.

Recto filed a similar bill during the 17th Congress.

In refiling the measure, Recto said the government should also “forgive” farmers’ obligations as it does to the billions in private-sector loans.

“We have bailed out banks, paid for white elephant projects, amortized foreign loans of dubious benefits, lost money in bankrupt firms, entered into joint ventures which left us holding the bag,” Recto said in a statement Saturday.

“Government has a history of being generous to corporate deadbeats whose loans we guaranteed and eventually assumed. But we have not extended the same consideration to the farming poor,” he lamented.

“When can government be a white knight to indebted farmers who are being squeezed between rising production costs and falling crop prices?” Recto asked.

Citing government reports, Recto noted that only P2.5 billion of the P14.3 billion in amortization for loans granted to awardees of CARP from 1987 to 2004 was paid.

Collection performance by the Land Bank of the Philippines on CARP loans, on the other hand, was about 51 percent as of March 2015.

Recto said it is high-time to emancipate agrarian reform beneficiaries from debt so that they could finally be deemed rightful owners of the lands awarded to them.

He said wiping off CARP loans serves the ends of social justice, “under whose canopy agrarian reform was pursued, in the hope that emancipated farmers will be able to improve their lives, feed the nation and grow the economy.”

Condoning the loans, he added, will also ease the burden of offices that manage these loans.

“There is a huge administrative cost in managing this important aspect of the agrarian reform program. In fact, in one study, the system to collect loan payments from CARP beneficiaries was not fully put in place due to the high costs required,” Recto explained.

Meanwhile, landowners whose properties were subjected to land distribution will still be paid, Recto clarified.

“Their right to be paid on time and based on the legal contracts will be honored and will not be impaired,” he assured.