House OKs agrarian reform condonation bill on final reading

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2022 06:56 PM

Voting 245-0-1, the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 6336 or the proposed "New Agrarian Emancipation Act".

The proposed law could see government forego as much as P58 billion in amortization payments from farmer-beneficiaries of the comprehensive agrarian reform program.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas voted yes to the bill.

"Noon pa dapat pinalaya ang ating agrarian reform beneficiaries mula sa ga-bundok na utang na dulot ng serye ng mga huwad na reporma sa lupa," Brosas said in explaining her vote.

The principal sponsor, House Committee on Agrarian Reform chair and Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao earlier explained to his colleagues that the bill is the outcome of the consolidation of 15 distinct House Bills.

Chungalao said the foremost feature of the bill is the condonation of all unpaid amortizations interest, including applicable penalties and surcharges, due from agrarian reform beneficiaries arising from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and other agrarian reform laws.

"The total amount being forfeited by the government is estimated to be at P58 billion in principal and arrears. This is but a small amount to concretely aid in the alleviation and freedom of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from the shackles of economic burden," Chungalao told the plenary session.

Chungalao also explained that the provision of estate tax relief and free distribution of land to beneficiaries who have yet to pay, will likewise ensure full emancipation for all ARBs.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda said the bill also lifts liens of government financial institutions and encumbrances on such lands.

The briefer explained that a lien is a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged so the lifting of liens will allow ARBs to convey their land subject to restrictions under the CARP and CARPER, to collateralize their land for agricultural credit, and to lease it to other farmers. 

The briefer said that the 10-year restriction under CARP has already expired on all lands since the last land award under CARPER ended on June 2013.

The briefer also said the bill effectively extends land distribution.

The bill also broadens the scope of services of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC).

Salceda said the condonation could result in increase in productivity of between 23.8% and 38.3% if productivity-enhancing interventions are increased among the lands condoned. 

The bill is one of the 3 proposed agrarian reforms under the current Congress, the others being the moratorium on amortization of agrarian reform payments, and the distribution of 52,000 hectares of unused government lands.

The House will submit the bill to the Senate for consideration.