Condonation of ARB debts a ‘temporary relief’ for farmer-beneficiaries – updates from the peasant movement of the Philippines

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today said that the approval in the bicameral conference committee of Senate Bill 1850 and House Bill 6336, otherwise known as the “New Agrarian Emancipation Act” supported by Malacanang and even by the Department of Finance shall provide a much needed temporary relief for agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). The said measure, also known as the New Agrarian Emancipation Act will condone the unpaid debts of ARBs paying land amortization through the Landbank of the Philippines and through direct payment schemes.

“Tama na i-condone ang mga di na mabayarang utang at hindi na magbayad ng amortisasyon ang mga ARBs at mas dapat na magkaroon ng bagong programa sa reporma sa lupa kapalit ng CARP na magmamandato ng libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka at benepisaryo,” according to peasant leader and former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano.

The New Agrarian Emancipation Act must lead to the realization and full enjoyment of ARBs of free land distribution, in contrary to the existing land reform program and laws that impose burdensome amortization payments and annual interests payable for a period of up to 30 years.

The legislation of the condonation bill will be the next step after the one-year moratorium on payment of land amortization under Executive Order No. 4 signed by President and concurrent agriculture secretary Marcos Jr.

KMP’s Mariano participated in the Technical Working Group that deliberated and crafted the bill in the House of Representatives. KMP specifically proposed that ARBs under Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT)/direct payment schemes (DPS) with landowners be included in the condonation of amortization.

Under direct payment schemes, the landowner directly transfers land to a beneficiary based on a contract approved by the DAR. Payments are made directly by the ARBs to the landowner and free the government of any obligation to pay landowners compensation. KMP’s proposal was included in the approved bicameral committee report.

The approved bill condones all unpaid amortizations and interests, including penalties and surcharges.

The “conditions to the grant of full ownership” that impose unjust conditionalities that are not related to the implementation of land reform program were also removed from the final version of the bill, as recommended by KMP through Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas.

KMP said it is the State’s policy to abolish the remnants of feudalism and other types of unjust tenurial arrangements. “Bago ang PD 27 at CARP, nagbibigay na ng parte ng kanilang ani ang mga tenante sa may ari ng lupa. Nung ma-land reform ang lupa nila at naging ARB sila, pinatawan naman sila ng mabigat na financial obligation na amortisasyon sa lupa at 6% per annum interest. Parang ang gobyerno ang pumalit sa landowner na naniningil ng bayad sa lupa.”

“Ensuring a truly redistributive and free land distribution will fulfill the genuine emancipation of farmers and ARBs. Dapat sentral na layunin at batayang prinsipyo ng anumang programa sa lupa ay libreng pamamahagi ng lupa at pagbuwag sa mga monopolyo sa lupa,” the former DAR chief said. KMP will actively engage these measures to assert free land distribution and a new land reform program.

Tomorrow, on the Global Day of the Landless, farmers from Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, and Cagayan Valley will march to the Department of Agrarian Reform central office in Quezon City to demand resolution to long-standing land cases. ###

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Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) was founded at a time of great political upheaval and broad mass movement against the tyranny and abuses of the Marcos dictatorship. Hundreds of peasant leaders and land reform advocates from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao gathered during the historic founding of KMP on July 24, 1985. After thirty five years, KMP remains as the largest national democratic mass organization of peasants in the Philippines.

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