MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. this week may issue an executive order imposing a yearlong moratorium on land amortization and interest payments for farmers, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said Tuesday.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Marcos said the moratorium would allow farmers to "channel their resources in developing their farms, maximizing their capacity to produce, and propel the growth of our economy."
"Ginagawa na nang husto yung executive order para magkaroon ng moratorium sa mga magsasaka," said Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella III.
"Ang hirap ng panahon, mayroon tayong pandemya, tapos itong pagtaas ng langis at fertilizer, mga uncontrollable global developments na nagpapahirap sa ating mga magsasaka," he said.
(The executive order is being drafted so that there will be a moratorium for farmers... Times are hard. We have a pandemic, and the prices of oil and fertilizers are rising, these are uncontrollable global developments that burden our farmers.)
Marcos in his SONA also called on Congress to pass a law that would condone the loans of agrarian reform beneficiaries with unpaid amortization and interest.
"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 said.
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.
"It's not going to affect our GDP and it's not even going to tilt the balance sheet, so why not do it," Estrella said of the proposal.
"The moment na ibigay na sa kanila ang lupa at na-condone na ang kanilang babayaran na amortization plus yung mga interes ng kanilang babayaran, they will be freed from primary mortgage, kasi parang nakasanla iyan sa gobyerno," he added.
(The moment that their land is granted and the amortization plus interests are condoned, they will be freed from primary mortgage.)
This will make the land "negotiable instruments," which could then be used for mortgage to develop the property, said the DAR chief.
Marcos on Monday 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 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.
These potential new farmers will get financial aid and other support services from DAR, Estrella said.
"We will be able to form a new breed of farmers who will be well equipped with the scientific knowledge so that they can pursue a more scientific farming method, hindi na hula hula ang ginagawa nila dahil sa nakapag-aral silang mabuti ng agrikultura," he continued.
(What they do will not be based on guesswork because they have studied agriculture thoroughly.)
The DAR will coordinate with agricultural colleges to find qualified beneficiaries, said Estrella.
"Yung walang lupa, yung mga mahihirap na talagang nagpursiging mag-aral, bibigyan natin sila ng pagkakataon," he said.
(The landless, those who persevered in their studies, we will give them a chance.)