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Senate, House ratify bill writing off P57 billion in agrarian reform loans

Congress has ratified the bill writing off all unpaid principal loans, including interests, penalties, and surcharges worth some P57 billion incurred by Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beneficiaries.

This developed after the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Senate approved the bicameral conference committee report on House Bill 6336 and Senate Bill 1850 via voice vote.

The measure covers the condonation of P57.557 billion principal debt of 610,054 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB) tilling a total of 1,173,101.57 hectares of agrarian reform lands, provided that these ARBs are still in debt upon the passage of this proposed law.

Of the P57 billion, the P14.5 billion loan of 263,622 ARBs is outrightly condoned since the names of these ARBs and their loan details were already submitted by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to Congress.

The remaining P43.057 billion principal loan of the 346,432 ARBs, on the other hand, will be condoned upon submission by the LBP and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of details of the said ARBs’ indebtedness to the government contained in a list of the collective certificates of land ownership award (CLOA).

The bill provides that the condonation of the remaining P43 billion will be processed in the three years.

Likewise, the bill mandates the termination of the execution of a final and executory administrative or judicial case decision due to the failure of an ARB to pay the 30-year amortization plus 6% annual interest resulting in the disqualification of the ARB, the cancellation of the agrarian reform title, the extinguishment of the rights of possession and ownership of the awarded land, as well as the removal of the person from the awarded land or the dismantling of any improvements found therein.

The bill, however, disqualifies ARBs for acts and omissions constituting violations of agrarian reform laws including willful refusal by the ARB to make the land productive or deliberate neglect, for two calendar years.

Only Senator Risa Hontiveros opposed the measure, mainly due to the distinction of faster condonation of loans for those who have been granted an individual CLOA as against those who only have a collective CLOA.

“All CLOA beneficiaries should enjoy free land under the agrarian reform because it is not their fault that the release of their individual CLOA has been delayed,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros said that the measure should be accompanied by support services for  farmers to discourage the selling of their land since there will no longer be any debt that could get in the way of the sale.

“I urge our implementers to craft the IRR taking into account these concerns and ensure that there are still meaningful safeguards against land selling,” Hontiveros said.

“The goal of agrarian reform is not just land sovereignty but food security. I hope that incentives will be given for these lands to remain agricultural, so they will continue to be cultivated and will produce food for all of us,” she added. —NB, GMA Intregrated News