By Wilnard Bacelonia

Senator Cynthia Villar (File photo) 

MANILA – Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday delivered Committee Report No. 24 to sponsor the Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1850 or the “New Agrarian Emancipation Act”, which seeks to condone all loans including interests, penalties and surcharges, arising from the award of agriculture lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) as of Dec. 31, 2022.

Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, said the measure shall cover two types of loans to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), which include those who have Agrarian Reform Receivables (ARR) Account with the Land Bank of the Philippines and have not paid or have incomplete payments of their amortization on the principal, interests, penalties and surcharges of their lands under Presidential Decree 27, and subsequent amendments to RA 6657.

“This involves 409,206.91 hectares of agricultural land with 273,622. Debt Amounting to: PHP14,499,890,626.97 to be written off from the books of Land Bank and VLT/DPS or Voluntary Land Transfer Scheme and Direct Payment Scheme as Provided RA 6657 (Section 20 and 21) for under which has 92,824 ARBs; Land Area: 178,063.95 hectares amounting PHP199.61 million to be paid from: Agrarian Reform Fund,” she said.

Likewise, Villar said all cases related to the non-payment of loans of ARBs with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) shall be dismissed motu proprio and that ARBs will be exempted from payment of estate taxes.

However, the 10-year prohibition in the bill is only a reiteration of the provision in RA 6657 that the land shall not be sold, transferred, or conveyed except through hereditary succession or to the government or to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) or to other qualified beneficiaries through the DAR from the issuance of the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA).

“This bill seeks to help alleviate the plight of our ARBs who are farmers for them to recover and overcome the fallout of Covid-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] crisis, the devastating African swine fever, the on-going Avian Influenza, the increasing cost of fertilizer, fuel and other farm inputs and climate change,” Villar said.

“Condoning their amortization is expected to provide them the 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,” she added.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. urged Congress to pass a law that will emancipate the ARBs from the agrarian reform debt burden.

Afterwhich, President Marcos issued Executive Order (EO) 4 as he celebrated his 65th birthday.

“This Administration finds it necessary to provide continuing relief to agrarian reform beneficiaries in order to assist in the process of recovery and ensure food security in the country amid the continuing disruptive effects of the pandemic, and the new challenges posed on the production of crops due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, as well as the pernicious effects of climate change,” Marcos said in his EO.

EO 4’s Implementing Rules and Regulations stated that the one-year moratorium covers the payment of the principal value and the annual interest due and payable by the ARBs. It also provides for the identification of beneficiaries qualified to avail of the one-year payment suspension.

The one-year moratorium period is also expected to provide the needed time for Congress to pass the law condoning the existing loans of current ARBs with unpaid amortization and interest. (PNA)