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Imee Marcos seeks loan write-off for agrarian reform beneficiaries

Senator Imee Marcos has pitched legislative measures that would write off all loans of farmers secured under agrarian reform programs.

At the same time, Marcos announced that his brother, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., will sign an executive order next week suspending payment upon the principal amount of loans to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and declaring a moratorium until June 30, 2023.

“With these legal precedents upending our well-worn framework, the total condonation for the last remaining tenant farmers, their families and heirs is truly doable,” she said in a privilege speech Wednesday.

The senator said she has filed Senate Bill Nos. 178 and 112 seeking to legislate “a complete write-off of all unpaid amortizations from loans secured under all agrarian reform programs.”

“Let there finally be land for all remaining qualified beneficiaries, for this indeed is the last mile of the Philippine agrarian reform program,” she said.

Marcos stressed the condonation “simply makes good financial sense” as it will generate savings for the government and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) given that the administrative cost for the land reform program has been bigger than its annual collections.

She cited that in 2020, the LBP spent P1.95 billion for a collection of only P542.68 million.

Marcos said that if the condonation is “doable and viable,” then writing off all remaining agrarian reform debts is also a “desirable end.”

“At least 654,047 agrarian reform families will be granted a total of 1.35 million hectares of land, liberating the countryside from the burden of debt and despair,” she said.

“With real assets free from encumbrances, our farmers can utilize cash originally intended for loan repayments to invest in their own properties, to buy equipment, find seed and embark technology and marketable cash crops,” she said.

Marcos said that possible funding sources for the condonation could come from the P34.47 billion Agrarian Reform Fund and P10.22 billion from the PhilGuarantee-AGFP Fund.

“Under the new R.A. 11901 or the Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Development Act of 2022, we can look forward to additional funding of 35% from the non-compliance collections of banking institutions to the DAR for titling and parcelization,” she said.

“Hence, not only can we afford to condone this meager farmers loans but we have the funds to support them with services, seed and equipment, training and finally even perhaps agricultural modernization,” she added.

Since the country’s agrarian reform programs began – through PD 27 or the emancipation of tenant from the bondage of soil which later on became the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform program – Marcos said at least 4.8 million hectares have already been distributed.  At least 173,339 hectares remain as backlog for distribution.—LDF, GMA News