Off the bucket list: Freeing farmers from debt

2023 July 22

ENACTED INTO LAW. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed into law Republic Act 11953 or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act on July 7, 2023.  The measure was one of the president’s promises mentioned in his 2022 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

MANILA – Freeing farmers from debt is one of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s promises during his first State of the Nation Address in 2022.

With the signing into law of Republic Act (RA) 11953 or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act recently, the administration has ticked off one of its major promises to the people.

RA 11953 condones all the unpaid amortization of the principal debt, including interest and surcharges, if any, incurred by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB).

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said the implementing rules and regulations will be ready by September.

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.

Agrarian Secretary Conrado Estrella III thanked the President and lauded Congress for the bill’s passage.

“By freeing farmers from the agrarian debt, and ensuring broader support services and credit facilities, the Marcos administration has given more resources to our farmers to increase the productivity of their farms and uplift the quality of their lives,” Estrella said.

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 million.

Project SPLIT

Simultaneous with the signing of the New Agrarian Emancipation Act on July 7 in Malacañang, a total of 32,441 land titles were distributed to 27,132 agrarian reform beneficiaries nationwide, covering 39,268.8051 hectares.

In his report to Malacañang, Estrella noted that from July 2022 to June 2023, the agency has distributed 16,445 e-titles under the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) project.

Since 2020 under the Duterte administration to May 2023 or after nearly one year since Marcos assumed the presidency, DAR has distributed 17,108 e-titles to 16,136 ARBs covering 24,166 hectares.

Before the year ends, DAR expects to distribute 70,000 more e-titles.

Meanwhile, to hasten the resolution of land dispute cases, DAR hired 63 new lawyers who will focus on resolving land conflicts involving ARBs.

In a span of 11 months, 2,300 agrarian adjudication cases were resolved, including some as old as 25 years ago.

Even the three-decade Hacienda Tinang land dispute in Concepcion, Tarlac involving 450 farmer beneficiaries was resolved in May.

The farmers’ group Makisama-Tinang said it was only in 2016 that they discovered they are the original and legitimate owners of the 200-hectare land as evidenced by a CLOA issued by DAR in 1995.

Looking forward, Estrella said he will continue to be guided by the directives of Marcos to help uplift the lives and livelihood of farmers and their families, promote sustainable development in the countryside, and attain food security.

He said DAR will continue fulfilling its mandate of distributing all available land to farmers and other qualified beneficiaries, clearing the backlog of agrarian cases, promoting support services including training on modern agricultural techniques, and granting farmers access to credit facilities. 

 Marita Moaje (PNA)