Philippines mulls write-off of farmers’ debt

May. 14, 2007

MANILA — Farmers who availed themselves of loans provided for by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law but have not been able to pay their amortizations may soon be presented with relief from debt once a Task Force created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo comes out with its recommendation on this proposal, Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said today.

In a press briefing, Saludo noted that the amount of unpaid liabilities has already reached the “billions of pesos” mark and that farmer-beneficiaries have been laboring “under the heavy debt” trying to make ends meet.

To address this, Saludo said the President signed last May 11 Administrative Order No. 176 creating a Task Force that will study the “proposed write-off of agrarian reform debt to give relief to thousands of farmer-beneficiaries unable to pay amortizations for many years and thus effect genuine land distribution.”

Aside from coming out with a report on the proposed condonation of agrarian reform debt in six months, Saludo said the Task Force “will also evaluate existing agrarian reform models and recommend reforms to make them more responsive and relevant to the needs and interests of farmer beneficiaries.”

The Task Force will be chaired by the Agrarian Reform secretary, with the secretaries of Finance and Justice and representatives of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association as members.

The agrarian debt condonation was first proposed by then Presidential Chief of Staff Mike Defensor and his successor Congressman Joey Salceda.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman welcomed the creation of the task force, saying, “This is a big step towards substantial relief to countless farmers and their families, and making land reform as true instrument of social justice.”

Finance Secretary Gary Teves, for his part, gave assurances that financial and legal ramification will be given due consideration in the task force “to ensure that any recommended measures would be implemented without problems.”

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap also lauded the task force, noting that relief for farmer-beneficiaries should also include more irrigation and other support infrastructure. (OPS)

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