A BILL condoning unsettled amortization payments for lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries was filed at the Senate to support farmers in their recovery from the compounded impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, economic crisis, and global conflict.
Under Senate Bill 1179, all unpaid interest, penalties, surcharges on loans and amortizations due from farmer-beneficiaries will be fully condoned by the government, which would pave the way for full ownership of lands awarded to them.
“If our farmers can get rid of their loans and the interest associated with it, we can give them adequate help to develop their farms, increase their productivity and promote agriculture in our country,” Senator Manuel “Lito” M. Lapid said in Filipino in a statement on Wednesday.
“Additionally, if this measure is enacted, it will improve the lives of farmers, reduce poverty, and encourage rural development and promote food security in the Philippines,” he added.
The senator cited former agrarian reform secretary Virgilio R. de los Reyes who reported that 906,997 beneficiaries had a total amortization payment due of P59 billion as of 2017.
This amount represents 84% of the total landowner compensation requirement of P69 billion.
The P10-billion difference had been covered by regular subsidies and adjustments in valuation as a result of just compensation cases decided by the legal courts. These are charged to the account of the government.
Another P5 billion had been collected since 2017.
The same report said in terms of payment performance, a total of 715,783 hectares of land had been awarded to 464,842 beneficiaries, amounting to P16 billion or 27% of total expected amortization of P59 billion.
The other 73% or P43 billion was considered as lands purchased and expropriated due to the absence of land distribution information sheets or land amortization schedule.
“Clearly, there are challenges in collecting land amortization, one reason is the absence of an efficient administrative system due to prohibitive administrative costs,” Mr. Lapid said.
“The other one is the high cost of expenses and effects of climate change on agriculture such as lower crop yields due to drought, heat waves and flooding as well as increases in pests and plant diseases leaving our agrarian reform beneficiaries struggling in amortizing the land they incurred from the agrarian reform (program),” he added. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan