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Thursday, February 22, 2024

New deal for farmers

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Will the lives of more than 610,000 farmer-beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program improve significantly in the years ahead with the New Agrarian Reform Emancipation Act?

That would be the expected end-result of President Marcos Jr.’s recent order to the Department of Agrarian Reform to ensure the “smooth and immediate” enforcement of the New Agrarian Reform Emancipation Act.

What the new law does is to condone all loans, including interest, penalties, and surcharges incurred by over 610,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

The condonation would cover at least 1.173 million hectares of land and an estimated P57.55 billion in unpaid amortization.

It would also terminate P206.25 million in unpaid just compensation by 10,201 ARBs tilling 11,531 hectares of land acquired through voluntary land transfer or the direct payment scheme.

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The President’s recent Executive Order extended for two years EO 4 which provides for a moratorium on the payment of the principal obligation and interest on amortization payable by ARBs.

The two-year extension of the agrarian debt moratorium will benefit some 129,059 ARBs whose land awards did not reach the cut-off on July 24, 2023 to qualify for the condonation of agrarian debt.

The extension of the moratorium on the payment of the amortization and principal on the debt of ARBs will no doubt contribute to a marked improvement in their daily lives as they will have more income to meet their daily needs.

ARB beneficiaries will be freed from the burden of onerous debts and instead reap the benefits from the land they cultivate.

Apart from contributing to their well-being and uplifting their quality of life, the New Agrarian Reform Emancipation Act will also re-energize the agricultural sector as a whole.

This will lead to greater farm productivity particularly at this time when weak harvests of palay and other agricultural crops have jacked up the retail prices of essential foodstuffs and contributed to galloping inflation.

At the same time, the administration should continue to facilitate the delivery of support services to all ARBs.

The farmers should be provided with adequate credit so they can gain access to modern farm equipment and afford basic farm inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

Other vital support services, including post-harvest facilities and farm-to-market roads, will make the lives of agrarian reform beneficiaries a lot better after a long wait for deliverance from poverty.

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