Move to protect farmers’ interest on coco levy funds gaining momentum in congress
The move to ensure that the billions of pesos in coco levy funds should be used exclusively for the benefit of coconut farmers and the coconut industry is gaining momentum in Congress, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. said Saturday.
Speaking before the National Coconut Farmers Assembly in Makati, Marcos said that he has been talking to fellow senators and members of the House of Representatives to drum up support for the passage of a bill on coco levy use, based on the road map the coco farmers have prepared.
About 120 leaders of coconut farmers organizations in the entire Philippines participated in the national assembly held at the Makati Palace Hotel.
“Wala pa naman akong nakakausap na tumututol na ang coco levy funds ay mapunta sa inyo. At wala pa namang nagsasabi na hindi sila susuporta,” Marcos said.
The senator said he did not even have to remind the lawmakers that the farmers could utilize the issue on the use of the coco levy funds as an election issue.
“Kadalasan hindi na umaabot yung diskusyon doon at sila’y very supportive dahil alam naman nila na ito’y matagal nang dapat ginawa,” he added.
Marcos has been conducting consultations with coconut farmers on the issue of the coco levy funds.
Earlier, he assured them of his support to ensure the coco levy funds estimated at P74.3 billion will be used for their benefit and for the revitalization of the country’s coconut industry in accordance with the January 24, 2012 SC decision saying the funds are “owned by the government to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.”
The senator said it is encouraging to note that separate proposals on the use of coco levy funds in the Senate and the House of Representatives seem to adhere to the principles the farmers laid down in their road map.
“Pero basahin ninyong mabuti yung batas at kung sa palagay ninyo ay kulang pa ang mga safeguards ay matulungan ninyo kami na maayos,” Marcos said.
He said the farmers should remain vigilant to ensure that under the proposed law the coco levy funds would not be used for any other purpose, that guidelines are clear on how the funds would be used, and representatives of the farmers would be consulted on the use of the funds.
The farmers have opposed attempts of the current administration to control the use of coco levy funds, through Executive Orders 179 and 180. The SC has issued a TRO against the twin order last June 30.
EO 179 calls for the inventory, privatization and reconveyance in favor of the government of all coconut levy assets, including the shares of stock in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Companies and CIIF Holding Companies, as well as the 5,500,000 San Miguel Corporation shares in the name of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
On the other hand, EO180 sought the immediate transfer and reconveyance of the coconut levy assets to the government and use them for the Integrated Coconut Industry Roadmap and the Roadmap for Coco Levy.
Had it not for the SC ruling against the twin EOs, Marcos said the farmers would have lost control of the coco levy funds. Marcos said this is the reason why the coconut farmers should not let their guard down until a law is passed to implement the SC ruling on the coco levy funds.