MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday vowed to ease the debt burden of Filipino farmers so they can improve farm productivity, help lower food prices and create jobs.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos vowed to issue an executive order imposing a year-long moratorium on the payment of land amortization and interest payments. He said this was already included in Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act approved at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A moratorium will give the farmers the ability to channel their resources in developing their farms, maximizing their capacity to produce, and propel the growth of our economy," he said.
"Civil society organizations also support this, because it will unburden farmers of their dues and be able to focus on improving farm productivity."
Marcos also called on Congress to do its share on easing the debt burden of farmers.
"Congress must also pass a law that will emancipate the agrarian reform beneficiaries from the agrarian reform debt burden, thereby amending Section 26 of Republic Act 6657," he said.
"In this law, the loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries with unpaid amortization and interest shall be condoned.
"Agrarian reform beneficiaries who are still to receive their land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program shall receive it without any obligation to pay any amortization," he added.
If passed into law, this debt condonation would involve P58.125 billion, benefiting 654,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in 1.18 million hectares of awarded lands.
Marcos also said 52,000 hectares of unused agricultural lands would be distributed to war veterans and their families, as well as retirees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
College graduates specializing in agriculture will also be given this land, Marcos said.
"The call of the times is for the infusion of fresh and new blood in the agricultural sector. We need a new breed of farmers equipped with modern agricultural technology to be able to engage and sustain scientific farming that will not only increase farm yields but also resilience in the face of climate change," he added.
INCREASING PRODUCTION OUTPUT
Marcos also vowed to increase agricultural production to address high food prices.
He said the Department of Agricuture (DA) has finalized a plan to increase production through financial and technical aid for farmers during the next planting season.
"Magbibigay tayo ng pautang habang mas ilalapit natin sa sektor ng agrikultura ang hindi gaanong mahal na farm inputs na bibilhin na nang bulto ng gobyerno. Kabilang dito ang abono, pestisidyo, mga punla, feeds, fuel subsidy, at ayuda para sa mga karapat-dapat na benepisyaryo," Marcos said.
Under his administration, Marcos said loans and financial assistance for farmers and fishers will be institutionalized. Agricultural producers will also be assisted in the modernization of farms.
A scientific approach will also be used to increase agricultural output, including technologies that will make products resilient to climate change.
"Gagawa tayo ng mga paraan upang maramdaman ng mga mamimili ang pagluluwag ng presyo ng mga produktong pagkain sa kayang halaga, gaya ng muling pagbubuhay ng mga Kadiwa center," Marcos said.
Kadiwa centers were set up during the administration of his father as well as under Duterte administration. These outlets sell fresh vegetables and other agri-fishery products that are cheaper than those sold in public markets.
"Hindi ito magagawa sa isang araw. Hindi magagawa sa isang buwan o isang taon lamang. Ngunit kailangan na nating simulan ngayon," the President added.