MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank has approved a $370-million loan to split collective land titles covering more than 1.3 million hectares of property earlier on granted to about 750,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries in the Philippines.

In a statement Saturday, the Washington-based multilateral lender said its board of directors on June 26 green-lit financing for the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) $473.6-million Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) project.

“The project is designed to accelerate the subdivision of collective certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) and generate individual titles on lands awarded under the comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP),” the World Bank said.

“Many farmers who were granted lands under the country’s agrarian reform program have been waiting for individual titles, sometimes for decades. This project will provide them the opportunity, on a voluntary basis, to get legal proof and the security of individual land rights. We expect that this will encourage them to invest in their property and adopt better technologies for greater productivity and higher incomes,” World Bank acting country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand Achim Fock said.

“Improved land tenure security would contribute to poverty reduction and rural economic growth and strengthen farmers’ resilience against impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the economic slowdown, subsistence farmers are at significant risk of falling deeper into poverty. Many of them lack social security, savings, and access to formal financing. With individual land titles, beneficiaries will have greater access to credit and financing, as well as government assistance,” Fock added.

This World Bank loan has a maturity of 29 years, on top of a 10.5-year grace period.

World Bank documents earlier seen by the Inquirer showed that SPLIT aimed to sub-divide or “parcelize” 1,368,900 hectares of land in 78 provinces across the country’s 15 regions.

“This scope covers roughly 4.5 percent of the land area of the Philippines and is the estimated balance of remaining collective CLOAs in land classified as alienable and disposable,” the World Bank had said.

Citing DAR figures, the World Bank had said over 4.9 million hectares of land were distributed to over three million small-scale farmers between 1988 and 2018, of which about 45 percent of the titles were CLOAs.

“Collective CLOAs were largely issued in the 1990s to expedite land redistribution, with the intention of later subdivision and individual titling. Over the past three decades, DAR has been incrementally working on subdividing collective CLOAs and issuing individual CLOAs,” the World Bank had explained.

According to the World Bank, DAR was currently having difficulty breaking down CLOAs into individual titles as the process was “cumbersome.”

The World Bank had said that issuing individual titles will give farmers not only clarity but also legal proof of the land they own or occupy.

“This security will encourage investment in agriculture productivity, and once they have paid the land amortization (such as repayment to the government for the land), they have the freedom to sell, lease out or otherwise transfer the land they have invested in,” the World Bank had said.

“Gaining an individual title will also provide them with a personal account at Land Bank of the Philippines (and a form of collateral), thereby facilitating access to credit and support financing from the government and other financing institutions. Lastly, resolving and solidifying land borders will reduce community conflict,” according to the World Bank.

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