A federation of farmers and farmworkers urged the Philippine government to “fix some loopholes” in a new law that will write off loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).
Task Force Mapalad (TFM) on Friday said while it welcomes the passage of the New Agrarian Emancipation Act, “it would be most fitting that the law would ultimately cover all ARBs”.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on July 7 signed into law the New Agrarian Emancipation Act that officially condones at least P58 billion in debts incurred by more than 600,000 farmer-beneficiaries covering some 1,173,101.575 hectares of agrarian reform lands.
TFM claimed that the law excludes at least 500,000 farmers and farmworkers who are entitled to 500,000 hectares of land, and who are waiting to receive their certificate of land ownership awards (CLOAs).
The group said the law “would exclude farmers and farmworkers who have not been awarded with emancipation patents (EPs) and CLOAs after” the December 31, 2023, cut-off date.
“This is even more unfair and painful for farmer-beneficiaries in landholdings that were already transferred under the name of the Republic of the Philippines but who have been waiting for an average of five years for issuance of their CLOAs,” the group said in a statement.
In a media forum on July 8, Undersecretary Luis Pagulayan of the Department of Agrarian Reform told LiCAS.news that ARBs who are still waiting for their CLOAs are also eligible to the condonation law.
“These problems and challenges do not disqualify them from [Republic Act 11953] because they are already agrarian reform beneficiaries for all legal intents and purposes,” said Pagulayan.
He also said that the government is mandated by Philippine laws to turn over the CLOAs and distribute the lands to the farmers within “six months from the time that land titles are transferred” to the Republic of the Philippines.
Existing agrarian reform laws require ARBs to pay in annual installments with six percent interest for a maximum period of 30 years.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said the “long-overdue” condonation is a “welcome relief” for farmers but urged government to “enact a new and genuine agrarian reform program”.
Damilo Ramos, chairperson of the group said only through the legislation of a new and genuine agrarian reform program that “puts free land distribution as a central principle, will correct the injustices” brought upon by the agrarian reform program of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
“We challenge Marcos Jr to certify as urgent the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill or House Bill 1161, and for Congress to resume deliberations on the proposed measure advocating free land distribution,” said Ramos.