A House leader said President Marcos Jr.’s first social legislation will free 610,000 farmers from debts owed in acquiring agrarian reform lands.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Representative Ralph Recto said the combined area of more 1.17 million hectares is 277 times the size of Manila.
“This is emancipation of massive scale, from the number of beneficiaries, to the amount to be condoned,” Recto said.
“The impact will also be huge. It financially emancipates the farmers while freeing resources that can be used to achieve food security,” he added.
Recto said while the P57.5 billion in loans up for write off may seem big, “but if you break it down per farmer, per hectare, it is small compared to other government spending.”
“On a per hectare basis, the average debt to be forgiven is P49,000. That is a fraction of the current selling price of less than a square meter of a condominium in Metro Manila,” he said.
“Iyang P49,000 na yan para sa isang produktibong ektarya ng lupa na magpapakain ng maraming tao ay katumbas lang ng binibigay natin sa tatlong 4Ps beneficiaries sa isang taon,” Recto added.
On the other hand, every farmer who qualifies will get an average debt relief of P94,000, Recto said.
“Ang halagang ‘yan, sa maraming state universities ngayon, ang syang ginagastos natin para sa isang estudyante sa ilalim ng Free College Law,” Recto said.
Recto said if corporations and high-income individuals have gotten tax breaks from recent laws slashing income tax rates, “then why should not farmers get the same reprieve involving far smaller amounts?”
“We have bailed out banks and companies owned by billionaires. We have allowed power sector obligations to migrate as national debts. If we have pursued a debt forgiveness strategy for many troubled companies, why not one for poor farmers?” Recto said.
“We have forgiven bigger debts by a few in the past. This one, with a lesser amount, is owed by many,” Recto said.
Recto said the bill “emancipating agrarian reform beneficiaries from financial burden by condoning all principal loans, unpaid amortizations and interests and exempting payment of estate tax on agricultural lands awarded under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program” is up for President Marcos Jr.’s signing.