September 27, 2023

In line with the agriculture support program of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., a USD600-million loan was inked recently between the Finance department and the World Bank to fund the priority projects of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) Scale-Up to convert agriculture into a modernized and industrialized sector through public infrastructure interventions and to strengthen the commodity value chain.

Agrarian Reform secretary Conrado Estrella lll said that PRDP Scale-Up, under the Department of Agriculture (DA), is an expanded response to the persistent challenges confronting the agriculture and fisheries (A&F) sector and rural communities in the country.

Estrella said the project which would be implemented from 2023 to 2028 would expect to boost farmer and fisherfolk access to markets, increase income from selected agri-fishery value chains, and improve efficiency in the food supply chain.

PRDP would cover 16 regions composed of 82 provinces in the country, focusing on areas where about half of the Philippines’ 109.03-million A&F population resides that would cause direct investments in rural infrastructure and enterprise sub-projects, that would direct benefit some 450,000 farmers and fisherfolk and generate about 42,000 new jobs.

The Finance department said that of the 818 million dollar loan, the remaining 218 million dollar would be funded by the national government and the local government units involved.

The WB had been supporting the project since 2014, and provided two additional loans in 2018 and 2021, the Finance department said.

Upon the completion of the PRDP projects, the DA aimed to facilitate its transition into a regular locally-funded program to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the project’s interventions.

Meanwhile, Finance secretary Benjamin Diokno said Friday that the condonation of the P57 billion loan incurred by the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under the New Agrarian Emancipation Law would not affect the national government revenue.

“It has no impact on fiscal feature of the (national) government because we have planned this already for the next five years based on what is our deficit target. What would be the revenues?. This (loan) is not included on the computation so there’s no impact,” Diokno told the media during the interview.

Diokno said that in running the national government, the prime consideration would not be only efficiency, but also social justice as well.

“And as mentioned by the President, many agrarian reform beneficiaries will benefit. When you administer a government, you are thinking of not just efficiency, but  also social justice so this will fall under social justice,” Diokno said.

In the New Agrarian Emancipation Act otherwise known as   Republic Act No. 11593, there would benefit around 610,054 Filipino farmers tilling more than 1.7 million hectares of land agrarian reform lands, making them debt-free from around P57 billion of agrarian arrears.

In old agrarian reform laws, President Marcos said that each agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) would need to pay the cost of land given to him in 30 years with 6 percent interest per annum.

“It is time to emancipate our farmers from this debt. This is why on September 13, 2022, I signed Executive Order No. 4 imposing a one-year moratorium on the payment of amortizations on agrarian debt by the beneficiaries,”  Marcos said.

As of July 2023, the total WB official development assistance (ODA) loan and grant commitments amount to an estimated US$7.94 billion.

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