Farmers’ debt condonation bill up for PBBM’s signature

By Zaldy De Layola

April 10, 2023, 6:47 pm

<p>(File photo)</p>

(File photo)

MANILA – A bill emancipating agrarian reform beneficiaries from financial burden through condonation under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is awaiting the signature of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto said on Monday.

The lawmaker from 6th district of Batangas said the condonation shall cover all principal loans, unpaid amortizations and interests and exempting payment of estate tax on agricultural lands awarded to farmers by virtue of CARP.

“President Marcos Jr.’s first social legislation will free 610,000 farmers from debts owed in acquiring agrarian reform lands whose combined area of more 1.17 million hectares is 277 times the size of Manila,” Recto said.

“This is emancipation of massive scale from the number of beneficiaries to the amount to be condoned,” he added.

He said the proposed bill’s impact will also be huge as it financially emancipates the farmers while freeing resources that can be used to achieve food security.

While the PHP57.5 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,” he said.

“On a per hectare basis, the average debt to be forgiven is PHP49,000. That is a fraction of the current selling price of less than a square meter of a condominium in Metro Manila,” Recto said.

“Iyang PHP49,000 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 (That PHP49,000 for a productive hectare of farmland that can feed lots of people is only equivalent to what we are giving to three 4Ps beneficiaries in a year),” he added.

On the other hand, every farmer who qualifies will get an average debt relief of PHP94,000, 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," said Recto, who is the first legislator to file the bill in the House of Representatives. (PNA)