Party-list solon seeks loan condonation of ARBs

August 26, 2022 People's Tonight 263 views

AMID the many challenges that farmers face today, such as the pandemic, calamities, and rising cost of farm inputs, AGRI Party-list Representative Wilbert T. Lee proposed a bill that seeks to free Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) from their unpaid land reform loan amortization and interests.

Under House Bill (HB) No. 3490, all unpaid principal and interests, including penalties or surcharges, if any, due from loans used for land acquisition secured under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) will be condoned by the government, freeing all farmer-beneficiaries from their payment obligations.

“Through this measure, we authorize the cancellation of the obligations owed to the government by farmer-beneficiaries for parcels of land received by amending Section 26 of Republic Act (RA) 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988,” said Lee.

Lee said that apart from the rising prices of food and commodities, the agriculture sector has always been weighed down by low productivity and high production costs, among many other causes.

However, farmers, especially ARBs, cannot give due focus to these issues as their funds are “tied up” in loan repayments.

“Sa kabila ng sipag nila at pagpupunyagi, patuloy na naghihirap ang mga magsasaka. Inaasahan natin na sa pamamagitan ng panukalang batas na ito, mabibigyan sila ng ginhawa mula sa bigat ng pasaning dala ng utang, interes, at penalty na isa sa mga dahilan ng kanilang kahirapan,” the lawmaker said.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) revealed that despite the large subsidy given to ARBs in terms of amortization subsidies, the collection from ARBs is “not encouraging”, even in the context of cost recovery.

In the same report, about 11% of Land Bank’s Agrarian Reform Receivables (ARR) accounts have been fully paid, but there is also a considerable number of accounts that are in default or not being settled.

“We need to empower and bolster the capacity of farmers [to address our food security woes holistically]. Their sacrifices in striving to provide food to every Filipino household have been sidetracked for decades, and we owe them this move, rather than them owing the government,” the lawmaker who hails from Sorsogon said.

“This measure is a much-needed intervention to benefit our farmers. Sa ganitong paraan, matutuon ang kanilang pansin at pondo sa pagsasaka. Imbes na ang kita nila ay maging pambayad-utang, magagamit nila ito para pataasin ang kanilang produksyon at sa iba pa nilang pangangailangan,” he added.

This bill is in support of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s pronouncement in his 1st State of the Nation Address (SONA) to amend Section 26 of RA 6657.

“Umaasa tayong sa lalong madaling panahon ay maipagkaloob din sa ating mga magsasaka ang kinakailangan nilang suporta sa porma ng access sa farm inputs, irigasyon, farm equipments at post-production facilities nang guminhawa ang buhay ng kanilang pamilya,” Lee said.