Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. on Friday slammed the persistent efforts of the administration to wrest control of the coconut levy funds estimated at over P70 billion from coconut farmers.
Marcos cited the recent call of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima for the immediate transfer of all the coco levy funds to the National Treasury, including the shares in San Miguel Corporation and their proceeds not yet transferred to the National Treasury.
De Lima made the call after the Supreme Court junked the petition of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation (Cocolife) seeking to assert their right over a portion of the 24-percent block of shares in food and beverage giant San Miguel Corporation.
On January 24, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the coco levy 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.”
“If the government manages to transfer that fund into the National Treasury and into the General Fund, they can use it for practically anything,” Marcos said during a consultation with over 600 representatives of coconut farmers from Bohol and nearby provinces.
The consultation with the Confederation of Coconut Farmers Organization of the Philippines (CCFOP) held at the Bohol Cultural Center in Tagbilaran City was the latest in a series of dialogues Marcos has been holding with the group to help them in their struggle struggle over ownership of the coco levy funds.
Marcos also refuted De Lima’s accusation that the CCOFP petition represents “a last ditch feeble attempt by powerful interest groups to once again rob our coconut farmers of what has already been duly declared to be theirs”.
CCFOP opposed the government’s move to utilize the 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 UCPB, Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Companies and CIIF Holding Companies, as well as the 5,500,000 SMC 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.
“The coconut farmers certainly have the right to oppose those orders. The SC already said the coco levy funds are to be used only for their benefit and for the coconut industry. Why should the government dictate on the farmers what do to with it?” Marcos said.
Following the TRO against the twin executive orders, Marcos noted a bill was filed at the House of Representatives to essentially legislate what the EOs failed to do.
“Clearly, the government wants to control the coco levy funds. We will not allow that to happen,” said Marcos.
Marcos earlier made a commitment to support a bill the coconut farmers themselves have drafted on the utilization of the funds based on the roadmap that the farmers laid out for the revitalization of the coconut industry.