P57-billion land reform law best so far by Congress
MANILA, Philippines — Mostly unheralded, the enrolled bill on the New Agrarian Emancipation Act of 2023 that is set to be signed on Friday may just be the Marcos administration’s “best and biggest accomplishment” in its first year, lawmakers said on Wednesday.
“This will be the hallmark of the Marcos administration’s inaugural year in office. It’s historic in scale, in world view, and in what it will bring to the people,” Albay Rep. Jose Ma. Salceda, chair of the ways and means committee of the House of Representatives, said in a statement.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate agriculture committee, said the bill, which is among President Marcos’ legislative priorities, involves almost two million hectares of farmland with P57.557 billion in troubled debt of more than 600,000 farmers.
This includes unpaid amortization, interest, surcharge and penalties of existing loans secured under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and mandates the Department of Agrarian Reform to issue a certificate of land ownership award or any other title as provided by law.
The law also provides for the lifting of all mortgage liens in favor of the national government.
Salceda also called the measure an “important step toward rural and agrarian justice,” given that “more than 69 percent of poverty in this country is rural.”
Frankly, I don’t know [how] we ever expected farmers without capital, networks, infrastructure and economic power to succeed in tilling land. We should have done more to provide agrarian support. And we should not have tied them to the land,” Salceda said.
For AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee, a principal author of the House’s version of the bill, farmers will be “unburdened of their loans, interests, and penalties that contribute to their inability to overcome poverty and are also major factors that have kept them from becoming fully productive.”