July 9, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 720 views

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez expressed confidence that the new law condoning the debts of the farmers would contribute immensely to the attainment of the country’s rice sufficiency.

Last week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed into law the Republic Act (RA) No. 11953, or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act.

“I have a strong feeling that the new law would pave the way for our farmers to produce more rice, which is our basic staple, and other crops that they grow in between rice planting,” Speaker said in a statement.

RA No. 11953 writes off “all principal loans, unpaid amortization and interests” of 610,054 agrarian reform beneficiaries from the time of the late President Marcos Sr. up to the present.

Such unpaid obligations are estimated to amount to about P58 billion.

The law also exempts from estate tax all lands agricultural lands awarded under a succession of land reform reforms under by the government since the first Marcos administration.

It likewise provides that the government will assume the P206.2 million owed by 10,201 agrarian reform beneficiaries to owners of the land they till and which is covered by voluntary land transfer-direct payment scheme under the agrarian reform program.

Romualdez said most of the more than 610,000 beneficiaries of the new law and who are tilling about 1.1 million hectares of land are rice farmers.

“Now that our farmers will soon be free of debt, I hope that they will be able to increase their produce to at least 100 50-kilo bags per hectare, from the present 60 to 70 cavans. But of course, the government will have to help along the way,” he said.

He said erasing the agrarian reform beneficiaries’ indebtedness is just the first step in assisting them to attain better productivity, improve their lives and achieve rice sufficiency for the country.

“The next step is aiding them to those objectives by providing them with or giving them access to credit, technology, equipment, inputs, and other vital support services. Let us leave them to fend for themselves,” he added.

He pointed out that a farmer whose agrarian reform debt has been erased but who does not get help in obtaining credit for production and other needs may turn to usurers who will drive them into debt again.

“So it is important that we are there, our concerned agencies are there on the ground, to assist them,” he stressed.

The Speaker called on these concerned agencies, principally the Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture and National Irrigation Authority, to make sure that farmers receive the support services they need.

“Irrigation is as important as credit and farm inputs in increasing the farmers’ produce. Without irrigation, our rice farming sector will not be able to improve from 60-70 cavans per hectare,” he said.

He also urged these agencies to monitor individually the agrarian reform beneficiaries covered by the new law and other farmers.

“Since they have the exact number, which is 610,054 tilling 1.173 million hectares, I am assuming that these agencies know them. So let us check on them every now and then to ask them what assistance they need, how are they doing,” he said.

The House leader appealed to all concerned to make the implementation of RA 11953 a resounding success.