By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday called on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to ensure the “smooth and immediate” enforcement of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11953 or the New Agrarian Reform Emancipation Act
Marcos made the call, as he led the ceremony for the presentation of the IRR of RA 11953 at the DAR’s central office in Quezon City.
In his speech, Marcos emphasized the importance of helping some 610,054 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to help the government attain its bid for food security.
“So, I urge the DAR with all government agencies to strive for a smooth and immediate execution of this IRR so that our beneficiaries may be freed from the burden of debts and reap the benefits from the land that they tirelessly cultivate, continue to facilitate the delivery of support services to all ARBs and make them your foremost priority in all our development efforts,” he said.
Marcos assured the local farmers of the government’s continued support to empower them and help the nation in securing a “more progressive, sustainable and resilient future.”
“This will enable us and ARBs and the rest of our farmers to realize the utmost potential and reach for our aspirations for our families, for our communities and for our country,” he said.
“To achieve this, we have collaborated with experts, we have strengthened our supply chains and pushed for the enactment of the new agrarian emancipation act. I therefore acknowledge the efforts of the DAR and other implementing agencies for supporting our endeavor to help our producers lead more dignified lives and attain food security for our people,” Marcos added.
Signed into law on July 9, 2023, RA 11953 condones all loans, including interests, penalties and surcharges incurred by ARBs from land awarded to them.
The condonation covers an estimated 1.173 million hectares of land that will benefit around 610,054 ARBs who incurred an estimated PHP57.55 billion in unpaid amortizations.
RA 11953 also terminates the payment of PHP206.247 million in unpaid just compensation to the landowners by 10,201 ARBs tilling 11,531 hectares of land acquired through the voluntary land transfer or the direct payment scheme (VLT/DPS).
Additional benefits for ARBs include exemption from payment of estate tax and mandatory inclusion in the Registry System of Basic Sectors in Agriculture to give them easy access to support services of the Department of Agriculture.
The IRR also provides procedures to accelerate the processes of condonation of the agrarian debt and the payment by the government of unpaid just compensation to landowners for lands acquired under the VLT/DPS.
The law also orders the outright condonation of the principal loan of PHP14.5 billion, including interests, penalties and surcharges of the 263,622 ARBs tilling some 409,206 hectares of agrarian reform lands.
The condonation of the remaining PHP43.057 billion in unpaid debt of 346,432 ARBs tilling 763,894.66 hectares of agrarian reform lands will be completed within three years from July 24, 2023, or the date of the effectivity of RA 11953.
Extending agrarian debt moratorium
During the event, Marcos also signed an executive order (EO), extending the moratorium on the payment of the principal obligation and interest of the amortization due and payable by ARBs for the lands awarded to them.
The new EO extends the agrarian debt moratorium under EO 4 issued on Sept. 13, 2022 for another two years, or until Sept. 13, 2025.
Marcos’ latest directive will benefit some 129,059 beneficiaries tilling 158,209.94 hectares of land whose land awards did not reach the cut-off on July 24, 2023 provided in RA 11954 to qualify for the condonation of agrarian debt.
“This (new EO) provides for the moratorium of the principal obligation and interest of amortization payable by the ARB, to include even those who are not covered by the new emancipation law,” Marcos said.
Marcos, who will celebrate his 66th birthday on Wednesday (Sept. 13), said he wished for the continued development of the agriculture sector in the country.
Asked for his birthday wish, Marcos said: “Naku. Maging maayos na ang agrikultura… ‘Yun lamang naman ang aking panalangin pa rin hanggang ngayon (I hope) agriculture will improve. That is my only prayer until now.”
Marcos also considered as the “best” birthday gift the issuance of the IRR of RA 11953.
“As we chart a path towards a more self-sufficient and equitable Philippines, this administration reaffirms its commitment to enrich the lives of our farmers, ensure the rapid industrialization of our farmlands and promote sustainable and inclusive growth in the countryside,” he said. (PNA)