PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has signed an order imposing a one-year moratorium on payments of amortization and interest on loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), according to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
In a DAR statement, Mr. Marcos was quoted as saying the executive order (EO) will allow ARBs to be “free from their debts, enabling them to use the money instead in developing their farms, maximizing their capacity to produce and propel the growth of the economy.”
The EO covers the payment of amortization and interest on loans of farmers who received agricultural land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
A copy of the EO has yet to be released by Malacañang.
DAR Secretary Conrado M. Estrella III said the issuance of the EO is in preparation for the passage of a law that would condone the loans of ARBs with unpaid amortization and interest payments.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Mr. Marcos announced his plan to issue the EO and asked Congress to pass a law condoning P58.1 billion worth of loans of some 654,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Under Republic Act No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, ARBs should pay annual amortization plus 6% interest per annum on the agreed value of the land to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) for 30 years.
ARBs are currently prohibited from leasing or selling their property within 10 years of the award. Those with unpaid obligations to LANDBANK are also prevented from disposing of their land, which is approximately 71% of all ARBs.
Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said the order is a “good first step” to securing clean titles for ARBs and their awarded lands, but that this will not address farmers’ concerns in the long run.
“If I understand the EO right, it exempts farmers from paying their amortization plus interest for one year. But it does not relieve them of their obligation to pay subsequent amortization,” he said in a Viber message.
Mr. Montemayor said many farmers are in debt because they cannot make the payments.
“The titles issued to agrarian reform beneficiaries contain an annotation encumbering the land to LANDBANK; this encumbrance will not be removed until farmers complete their amortization payment. There are also cases where titles were issued to beneficiaries but the account holders were not endorsed by DAR to LANDBANK; in effect, farmers do not know exactly how much to pay and LANDBANK has no record that they have accountabilities to the bank,” he said.
Fermin D. Adriano, former Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and Research, said that the government should also allot more hectarage allowed for ARBs.
“The recommendation of analysts is to facilitate land titling and allow increasing the hectarage ceiling to more than three hectares as stipulated by CARP,” he said in a Viber message.
He also recommended allowing land markets to operate to enable economies of scale. “Without these provisions, nonpayment is just another dole out or patronage politics,” he added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson