The Daily Manila Shimbun


Removal of restriction on free patents for agri lands gets Senate nod

May 30, 2017

The Senate Tuesday passed on third and final reading a bill that would remove restrictions on agricultural free patents issued to farmers and make agricultural land titles immediately available for trade to help spur development in the agricultural sector. Senate Bill No. 1454 or the “Agricultural Free Patent Reform Act of 2017” was approved with 21 affirmative votes, no negative vote, and no abstention. Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, sponsored and authored the measure, while Senators Paolo Benigno Aquino IV and Cynthia Villar served as the bill’s co-authors. Gordon said that the bill sought to “make agricultural land titles immediately tradeable and bankable, provide farmer entrepreneurs the much-needed access to credit, and create capital to make investments, create jobs, increase productivity, and reduce poverty in rural areas.” “This bill will do much to address our unbalanced development and give agriculture a much-needed shot in the arm. Trillions in dead capital will be unleashed in the market in the form of credit and livelier investments,” he said. Gordon said that the bill would primarily amend the Commonwealth-era Public Land Use Act and “abolish provisions that prevent banks from lending to farmers against agricultural patents.” Enacted in 1936, the Public Land Use Act entitles any Filipino who have “continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors in interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition” to have an agricultural free patent issued to him, for the same land not exceeding 24 hectares. Gordon said under the act, agricultural patent holders are “prohibited from mortgaging or selling their land within five years from the issuance of the patent, and given the right to repurchase the patents within five years from transfer or conveyances.” Under the bill, Gordon said that the agricultural free patent “shall now be considered as title in fee simple and shall not be subject to any restriction against encumbrance or alienation.” “Removing these restrictions will unleash the power of freer land markets. It will make agricultural patents bankable to improve the economy, because right now, nobody will want to buy it because of the restrictions,” he stressed. Gordon said that the bill would help boost development in the agricultural sector, as it is expected to “unleash about two to three million agri-free patents, equivalent to at least P387 billion up to P1 trillion worth of agricultural land.” “More importantly, we will empower the farmer. We will give him options about what he can do with the land—options such as borrowing against the land to develop it, or selling the land to a more productive farmer,” he said. Gordon said that the bill could also help attract younger generations of Filipinos into back farming, noting that according to the Department of Agriculture, the average age of farmers now is 57 years of age. “Young people are turning away from farming because they do not see any future in it. It is not hard to see why. It is so hard for farmers to obtain credit. It is also hard for them to expand and buy more land if they are successful. If enacted into law, this bill will help solve the problems our young generations face with farming,” Gordon concluded.  DMS