THE Agricultural Free Patent Reform Act President Rodrigo Duterte is now set to sign shortly, is expected to “deliver a huge and immediate impact on the economy, on investments in the countryside and on inclusive growth” from the agriculture sector.
Principally authored by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda in the House, HB 8078 was merged with Senate Bill 1454 and hurdled the legislature’s bicameral conference committee recently. It will remove major restrictions provided under Commonwealth Act No. 141 governing the land patent program, easing up certain prohibitions in granting public farmlands to qualified beneficiaries.
Salceda said the new law will now empower qualified farmland beneficiaries to legally manage and improve the land as a viable source of livelihood. “For a country that has its roots on agriculture it is sad to note that agriculture only contributes 8.5% to the Gross Domestic Product in 2017, “ Salceda said. He and Sen. Richard Gordon, who authored the Senate version, agree that the new law “is a game-changer.”
The Commonwealth Public Land Act prohibits landowners to sell and mortgage the land within the first five years of the patent grant and gives the option to the original owner to buy back the property within five years from the date of sale. The restrictions have made agricultural patents unbankable since banks do not want to hold a property for five years before its disposition.
Salceda said these restrictions have given poor farmers limited options to obtain funds to modernize and hike farm productivity and investing in their improvement. Among the culprits in the government’s failure to maximize farm production, he noted, are the lack of modernization and inadequate or improper use of inputs to increase production and make farms as viable sources of economic growth for farmers, the community and the country as a whole.
“Obtaining funds for capitalization by farmers to become farmer-entrepreneurs is very difficult,” and “access to credit has always been problematic for the poor,” he pointed out, adding that “without new funds, Filipino farmers will remain stagnant with little hope of crossing over to the other side of the poverty line.”
Banks and financial institutions require borrowers to secure loans with collaterals but farmers almost always have no assets to use as collateral other than the lands they till,”Salceda said.