House, Senate ratify bicameral report condoning ARBs’ unpaid debts

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THE Senate and the House of Representatives on Wednesday ratified the bicameral conference committee report condoning the unpaid debt of farmer-beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program.

The bicameral conference committee report covered the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 1850 and House Bill No. 6336 or the New Agrarian Emancipation Act.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, reported the successful outcome of the bicameral meeting at the Senate’s plenary session. The consolidated bill seeks to relieve agrarian reform beneficiaries from the burden of paying individual loans, including interests, penalties and surcharges, secured under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) or from other agrarian reform programs or laws.

Aside from Villar, the Senate panel to the bicameral committee was composed of Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Imee Marcos.

Under the ratified bill, the proposal shall cover the condonation of P57.557 billion in principal debt of 610,054 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), tilling a total of 1,173,101.57 hectares of agrarian reform lands.

The ARBs refers to farmers or farmworkers granted lands under the Presidential Decree 27, Republic Act 6657 and Republic Act 97000, and who have outstanding loan balances payable to the LandBank and to private landowners as of the effectivity of this proposal.

The bill said the principal loan of P14.5 billion — including interests, penalties and surcharges — of the 263,662 ARBs tilling 409,206.91 hectares of agrarian reform lands, whose names and other loan details were already submitted by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to Congress, shall be condoned outright under this proposal.

However, the inclusion of the remaining P43.057-billion loan in this bill shall take effect only upon submission by the LBP and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of details of the indebtedness to government of the 346,432 ARBs, tilling 763,894.66 hectares of agrarian reform lands, contained in a list, as provided for under this proposal.

Upon effectivity of this proposal, the individual loans of ARBs, including interests, penalties and surcharges, secured under the CARP or from other agrarian reform programs or laws, are condoned and written off by the government, thereby relieving them from the burden of payment thereof, according to the bill – provided these ARBS shall have been indebted to government as of the effectivity of this proposal.

The bill mandates the LBP and the DAR to submit the detailed list of their actual loans subject for condonation, under the collective Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA), together with the loan plus penalties, interests, and surcharges; location; hectarage, and other relevant information, to the concerned committees of the House and Senate within the three-year period from the effectivity of this proposal.

It also mandates the DAR to issue, whenever necessary, a Certificate of Condonation which shall be annotated on the Emancipation Patent (EP), CLOA based on the applicable agrarian reform law.

The bill said all direct payments of compensation by the 10,201 ARBs, tilling 11,531.24 hectares of agrarian reform lands, to landowners under Voluntary Land Transfer and Direct Payment Schemes, amounting to P206,247,776.41 million are also terminated and payments of the remaining balance of compensation due the concerned landowners shall be paid by the government through the LBP and charged against the Agrarian Reform Fund.

The bill also said the land awarded to ARBs shall be excluded from his/her gross estate for purposes of estate tax.