Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed confidence that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will prioritize the signing into law of a bill condoning loans of farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, said Senate Bill 1850 or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act will benefit 610,054 ARBs who were granted lands under Presidential Decree No. 27, Republic Act 6657, as amended by RA 9700, and who have outstanding loan balance as of the effectivity of the act.
The bill, which was already passed by both houses of Congress, emanated from Villar’s committee in the Senate. It proposes to condone all principal and interests of loans from the award of agricultural lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Villar said farmers and farmworkers are waiting for the enactment of this measure, which will make possible their dream of receiving their land titles. “Without land in their name, our farmers cannot access credit as they lack collateral to secure the same,” Villar said.
Once enacted into law, ₱57.5 billion principal debt of 610,054 ARBs, tilling a total of 1,173,101.57 hectares of agrarian reform lands would be written off. The principal loan of ₱14.5 billion, including interests, penalties and surcharges of 263,622 ARBs, tilling 409,206.91 hectares of agrarian reform lands, whose names and other loan details were already submitted by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to Congress, shall be condoned outright.
The inclusion of the remaining ₱43.057 billion loan would take effect upon submission by the LBP and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of details of the indebtedness to government of the 346,432 ARBs, tilling 763,894.66 hectares of agrarian reform lands.
Also, under the bill, all cases related to the nonpayment of loans of ARBs with the DAR shall be dismissed motu proprio and that ARBs will be exempted from payment of estate tax. It also mandates the inclusion of ARBs to the Department of Agriculture’s Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture, and will be provided with all support services for farmers.
“This bill seeks to help alleviate the plight of ARBs, who are farmers; for them to recover and overcome the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, the devastating African swine fever, the ongoing avian influenza, the increasing cost of fertilizer, fuel, and other farm inputs, and climate change,” Villar said.
Villar added that condoning farmers’ amortization “will provide them 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.”