THE SENATE on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to condone all unpaid loans, amortization and penalties of farmers who were awarded lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
With 23 affirmative votes and no negative votes or abstentions, the Senate passed Senate Bill No. 1850 or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act during its plenary session.
The measure will cover the condonation of about P58 billion worth of principal debt of 610,054 agrarian reform beneficiaries who were awarded 1.18 million hectares of land.
Of the amount, the principal loan worth P14.5 billion of 263,622 beneficiaries will be immediately written off by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), Senator Cynthia A. Villar said in a sponsorship speech on Feb. 8.
The inclusion of the remaining P43 billion worth of loans will only take effect once the LANDBANK and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) submit details of actual loans of 346,432 beneficiaries to the government.
All direct payments of compensation worth P119.61 million by 92,824 beneficiaries to land owners under the Voluntary Land Transfer Scheme will also be terminated under the measure.
“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,” Ms. Villar said. “Without land in their name, these farmers cannot access credit as they lack collateral to secure the same.”
Under the bill, all cases related to nonpayment of loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries with the DAR will be dismissed. They will also be exempted from the payment of estate taxes.
“This bill seeks to help alleviate the plight of our agrarian reform beneficiaries 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,” she said.
Ms. Villar said the loan condonation would allow farmers to develop their farms, increase productivity and promote food security.
The bill is one of the priority legislative measures of the Marcos administration.
The House of Representatives approved a counterpart bill on Dec. 14, 2022. The Senate bill will now be transmitted to the bicameral committee for consolidation. — J.V.D.Ordoñez