By Marita Moaje

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The signing of the new Agrarian Emancipation Act or Republic Act 11953 is very timely as it freed about 600,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from the burden of debt, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

The signing of the law was an offshoot of the one-year moratorium on the payment of the principal obligation and interest of the amortization due and payable by ARBs, which was issued by Marcos in September last year under Executive Order 4, as he promised during his first SONA.

Marcos said for the country to attain food security, farmers must first be taken care of.

Tulad ng ating ipinangako, ipinagpapatuloy natin ang repormang pansakahan. Mahalagang haligi ito ng sektor ng agrikultura na ating inaayos (As we promised, we are continuing the agrarian reform. This is an important pillar of the agricultural sector that we are strengthening),” he said.

RA 11953 condones all the unpaid amortization of the principal debt, including interest and surcharges, incurred by ARBs.

A total of PHP57.56 billion of unpaid principal debt would be condoned to benefit 610,054 ARBs tilling 1.173 million hectares of land.

Existing laws require ARBs to pay for the land awarded to them in annual installments with 6 percent interest for a maximum period of 30 years.

The government will also assume the obligation of 10,201 ARBs tilling 11,531.24 hectares of land to pay the remaining balance of the direct compensation due the concerned landowners under the Voluntary Land Transfer or Direct Payment Scheme amounting to PHP206,247,776.41.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is expected to finish the implementing rules and regulations of RA 11953 by September. (PNA)