Press Release
February 8, 2023

(Senate Bill No. 1850)

Mr. President, today I stand to co-sponsor Senate Bill No. 1850 under Committee Report No. 24, entitled: "An Act Emancipating Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries From The Debt Burden Arising From The Award Of Agricultural Lands Under The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and for Other Purposes." Before anything else, I would like to commend the good Chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, whom we all fondly call Mama Bear, Senator Cynthia Villar, for speedily championing this measure.

"Most things, except agriculture, can wait." Words credited to Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. And they ring true even today, Mr. President. Agriculture, which hangs on a delicate, almost mathematical balance of the elements, cannot be made to wait. Hindi maaaring ipagpaliban ng magsasaka ang panahon ng pagtanim, maging ang panahon ng pag-ani. There is a reason why food remains a basic need, and there can be no delay in fulfilling this need. Hindi tayo mabubuhay ng walang pagkain. Ganyan kahalaga ang ginagampanang papel ng ating mga magsasaka.

Agriculture is, and always will be, an urgent matter.

In recognition of its urgency, Mr. President, Republic Act No. 6657 was enacted into law. Otherwise known as the "Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988," this law aimed to uphold a just and equitable distribution of land to landless farmers, putting premium on their welfare. The vision of CARP was social justice by providing our farmers and farmworkers with the opportunities to enhance their dignity and improve the quality of their lives through greater productivity of agricultural lands while at the same time attaining authentic rural development and industrialization.

However, for today, Mr. President, let us take a look at Section 26 of the said law. Nakasaad sa nasabing seksyon na ang mga lupaing iginawad sa ating mga Agrarian Reform Beneficiary ay babayaran nila. The total is divided across thirty annual amortizations, at an interest rate of six percent per annum.

Kung atin pong susuriin, maari pong para sa ilan, maliit na halaga lang ang buwanang hulog na nagkakahalaga sa karaniwan na dalawang daang piso. Ngunit para sa atin pong mga magsasaka na ang tanging pinagkukuhanan ng kanilang kabuhayan ay ang kanilang mga pananim, ang buwanang hulog na ito ay sapat na pangkain ng kanilang pamilya, pampagamot sa tuwing may sakit, at pampaaral sa kanilang mga anak.

Bukod sa pang araw-araw na gastos, nawawala rin ang pambayad ng ating magsasaka sa kanilang lupa sa tuwing sinasalanta ng bagyo ang kanilang mga pananim. Ang ilang buwang hirap sa pagaalaga ng tanim at gastos sa mga binhi at pataba, ay tila bula na nawawala sa tuwing dumarating ang bagyo sa kanilang taniman. Nawala na ang pambayad ng lupa, nawala na rin po ang panggastos para sa kanilang pamilya. Sa maraming pagkakataon, napipilitan na lamang mangutang ang ating mga magsasaka.

Sadly, Mr. President, this is probably the reason why, in 2018, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that poverty incidence of farmers was at roughly thirty-one per cent. Marami sa ating mga magsasaka ay nananatiling mahirap.

And yet, I speak today as one proud and grateful member of this Congress, because under Senate Bill No. 1850, we are now emancipating them from the clutches of these financial burdens. Mr. President, sa panahon na bumabangon pa lamang ang lahat mula sa bangungot ng COVID-19, lalong lalo na ang ating mga farmer, hindi na natin dadagdagan ang kanilang mga hinaharap na pagsubok.

Nito lamang hearing tungkol sa pagtaas ng presyo ng mga sibuyas, nalaman natin na may ilang magsasaka na ang piniling magpakamatay dahil hirap na hirap na sila. How heartbreaking to know, that the ones who work the hardest to ensure that we can eat and live, are now the ones who give up on their lives. We say no more; we stand with our agriculture sector.

It is time for Congress, this Congress, to look at our farmers, feel their hardships, and resolve, once and for all, that they do deserve better from their Senate. Agriculture, Mr. President, is urgent. And it must not be made to wait.

Let us see to it that Senate Bill No. 1850 gets passed into law.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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