Recto files bill condoning farmers' debts under land reform program
A bill condoning all the debts farmers incurred in owning lands under the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has been filed in the Senate.
Filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, the measure seeks the write-off of all unpaid amortizations, interests, penalties, surcharges on loans secured under CARP.
Once this mass amnesty of farmer's obligations will be approved by law, "the agrarian reform beneficiaries shall be deemed rightful owners of the lands awarded to them."
Landowners whose properties were subjected to land distribution will still be paid, Recto explained. "Their right to be paid on time and based on the legal contracts will be honored and will not be impaired."
In one official report, only P2.5 billion of the P14.3 billion in amortization for loans granted to awardees of CARP from 1987 to 2004 was paid.
Collection performance by the Land Bank of the Philippines on CARP loans, on the other hand, was about 51 percent as of March 2015.
Recto said the total amount of land reform loans for forgiveness is small compared to the hundreds of billions in private sector loans it had written off over the past 40 years.
"We have bailed out banks, paid for white elephant projects, amortized foreign loans of dubious benefits, lost money in bankrupt firms, entered into joint ventures which left us holding the bag," Recto said.
"Government has a history of being generous to corporate deadbeats whose loans we guaranteed and eventually assumed. But we have not extended the same consideration to the farming poor," he said.
Recto said condoning the loans will be a big load off farmer's backs and also from offices that manage these receivables.
"There is a huge administrative cost in managing this important aspect of the agrarian reform program. In fact, in one study, the system to collect loan payments from CARP beneficiaries was not fully put in place due to the high costs required," Recto explained. DMS