THE government signed a $370-million (P18.29 billion) loan agreement with the World Bank to fast-track the process of dividing 1.4 million hectares for distribution to beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the Department of Finance (DoF) said.

In a statement Monday, DoF said the agreement was signed on July 14 to fund the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) Project, which will allow the collective certificate of land ownership awards (CCLOAs) to be parcellized into individual titles for some 750,000 farmers.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III represented the Philippines in the signing ceremony and Achim Fock represented the World Bank when he was still the acting country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand of the bank at the time.

The SPLIT project costs $473.56 million, with $370 million to be financed by the World Bank. The Philippine government will provide for the remaining $103.56 million.

The loan matures over 29 years, inclusive of a 10.5-year grace period.

Of the 4.8 million hectares redistributed to 2.8 million beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program, the DoF said only 53% have their own individual land titles while the remaining 47% were covered only by CCLOA.

The CCLOAs were issued to groups of beneficies in the 1990s and were intended as a temporary measure.

According to the DoF, “the parcelization of the CCLOAs into individual titles has been very slow,” with around 1.4 million hectares of land yet to be divided among the farmers under the SPLIT project.

“The SPLIT project will improve the bankability of farmers and enable them to access credit and government assistance. It will support our economic recovery program by intensifying assistance to farmers and making agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) more resilient to the economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” Mr. Dominguez was quoted as saying.

The DoF said holding individual titles provides farmers security in matters that require proof of ownership, like mortgages or inheritance.

Mr. Fock said the World Bank expects the project to allow farmers “to invest in their property and adopt better technologies for greater productivity and higher incomes.” — Beatrice M. Laforga