By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

DEBT-FREE FARMERS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signs the New Agrarian Emancipation Act during a ceremony in Malacañan Palace in Manila on Friday (July 7, 2023). The new law condones all loans, including interests, penalties, and surcharges incurred by agrarian reform beneficiaries from land awarded to them. (PNA photo by Rey Baniquet)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday signed into law the Malacañang-sponsored New Agrarian Emancipation Bill that aims to make the farmer-beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program debt-free.

Marcos signed Republic Act (RA) 11953 in a ceremony held at the Kalayaan Hall of Malacañan Palace in Manila.

“Pinangako ko sa ating mga kababayan na itutuloy ang (I promised our countrymen that we will continue the) Agrarian Reform Program. I’m here today to build on that promise because our beneficiaries deserve nothing less. Ituloy natin ang repormang agraryo (Let us continue the agrarian reform),” he said in a keynote speech.

The New Agrarian Emancipation Act condones all loans, including interests, penalties, and surcharges incurred by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from land awarded to them under Presidential Decree (PD) 27, RA 6657, and RA 9700.

PD 27 is the Tenant Emancipation Decree of the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. issued on Oct. 21, 1972.

RA 6657 is the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, while RA 9700 is the legislation extending the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Under the existing agrarian laws, ARBs are required to pay for the lands awarded to them in annual amortization for a maximum of 30 years.

Marcos also emphasized that genuine agrarian emancipation requires more than just the distribution of land, saying the provision of credit facilities and support services for farmers must be broadened.

“These efforts will yield more sustainable farms and higher incomes for our farmers. As your president I assure you we will never stop providing our farmers with the support that they need to make their farms more productive while also improving the lives and their lives and that of their families,” he said.

Marcos pledged to address the farmers’ concerns by enhancing the efficiency of agrarian case resolution systems for faster outcomes.

He reiterated his commitment to revitalizing the agricultural industry to attract and train new generations of young farmers “who will become the driving force behind modernized and profitable agriculture sector that fuels sustainable rural development.”

“It is time to give our farmers the recognition that they deserve as the providers of our nation’s sustenance, the providers of life to all of Filipinos,” Marcos said.

“Let us work together to realize this dream, our dream, as it was my father’s dream to give every Filipino farmer and his or her family, a life beyond mere survival, a life free from hunger or fear of the future.”

Agrarian reform beneficiaries show their land titles during the awarding ceremonies at Malacañan Palace’s Heroes Hall on Friday (July 7, 2023). (PNA photo by Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

RA 11953 law covers the PHP57.56 billion in agrarian arrears, benefiting 610,054 ARBs who are tilling a total of 1,173,101.57 hectares of awarded land.

Under the newly signed law, the ARBs will also be included in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture of the Department of Agriculture (DA) currently chaired by Marcos.

Their inclusion entitles them to all support services given to farmers by the DA and other government agencies.

Sixty days after the effectivity of RA 11953, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), in coordination with the Executive Committee of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, will issue rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the new law.

The New Agrarian Emancipation Act is the fulfillment of Marcos’ call on Congress during his first State of the Nation Address in July 2022 to pass a law condoning the farmers’ unpaid debt.

Awarding of titles

Marcos also led the ceremonial awarding of titles to ARBs at Malacañan Palace’s Heroes Hall.

In a speech delivered at Malacañan Palace, DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III said the agency simultaneously distributed a total of 32,441 land titles to about 27,132 ARBs nationwide covering 39,269 hectares.

“Now, Mr. President, we can say that in your first year as president of the Republic, you have done a lot for your country,” Estrella told Marcos. (PNA)