CVillar seeks condonation of all loans given to agrarian reform beneficiaries

All loans including interests, penalties and surcharges, due from P14.62 billion loans arising from the award of agriculture lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) as of December 31,2022 should be condoned.

Cynthia A. Villar, chairman of the Senate agriculture, food and agrarian reform committee, stressed his in her sponsorship speech of Senate Bill 1850, under committee report, or the “New Agrarian Emancipation Act.”

The bill is in substitution of bills filed by six other senators - Francis Escudero, Imee Marcos, Manuel Lapid, Ramon Revilla Jr., Joel Villanueva and Ronald dela Rosa.

More than half of the Philippines’ 113 million people live in rural areas, and 36 per cent of them are poor, and dependent on agriculture as their primary and often only source of income, Villar said.

The laws on agrarian reform were passed during the time of the late President Diosdado Macpagal in 1961-1965 to her daughter, former President Gloria Macapaga-Arroyo in 2001 to 2010.

Villar cited a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report that confirmed the glaring poverty gap between cities and rural areas.

The Metro Manila region and urban centers have the lowest poverty incidence 13 per cent which is higher among rural inhabitants 36 per cent.

Although the causes of poverty in rural areas vary, common issues include a decline in agricultural productivity, unprofitable smallholder farming operations and unsustainable practices. Rural areas lag in economic growth partly due to their lack of access to productive capital, financial services and to limited market access.

Villar said this emphasizes the need for urgent government action in this regard.

“Thus the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) aims to improve the lives of small farmers by offering them land tenure security and support services. Many farmers who were beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform Program have been waiting for their titles but they have been saddled by issues on how to pay their loans' annual amortization, interests, including penalties and surcharges, which hinder their full ownership over their land,” she added.

Without land in their name and these farmers cannot access credit as they lack collateral to secure the same, she pointed out.

Villar said the bill seeks to emancipate ARBs from debt burden through the condonation of all unpaid principal and interests, including penalties or surcharges, from these loans.

This condonation bill shall cover two types of loans to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs):

1. ARBs that have Agrarian Reform Receivables (ARR) Account with the Land Bank and have not paid or have incomplete payments of their amortization on the principal, interests, penalties and surcharges of their lands under PD 27, RA 6657 and subsequent amendments to RA665. This involves 409,206.91 hectares of agricultural land with 273,622. Debt Amounting to: Php14,499,890,626.97 to be written off from the books of Land Bank and -

2. VLT/DPS or Voluntary Land Transfer Scheme and Direct Payment Scheme as Provided RA6657 (Section 20 and 21) for under which has 92,824 ARBs; Land Area: 178,063.95 hectares amounting P199.61M to be paid from: Agrarian Reform Fund.

Likewise all cases related to the non-payment of loans of ARBs with the DAR shall be dismissed motu proprio and that ARBs will be exempted from payment of Estate Taxes.

However, the 10-year prohibition in the bill is only a reiteration of the provision in RA6657 that the land shall not be sold, transferred or conveyed except through hereditary succession or to the government or to the Land Bank of the Philippines or to other qualified beneficiaries through the DAR from the issuance of the CLOA.

This bill seeks to help alleviate the plight of ARBs who are farmers for them to recover and overcome the fallout of Covid-19 crisis, the devastating African swine fever, the on-going Avian Influenza, the increasing cost of fertilizer, fuel and other farm inputs and climate change.

“Condoning their amortization will provide them the much-needed financial resources that shall help them develop their farms, increase their productivity and advance an agriculture driven economy, improve the lives and that of their families, reduce poverty, accelerate rural development and promote food security,” Villar said.