The Manila Times - Coco levy bill gaining ground – Marcos

News & Interviews
9 August 2015

By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times

The-Manila-Times-NetSenator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has assured coconut farmers that the measure that will ensure exclusivity of the use of coco levy funds to farmers and the coconut industry is gaining momentum in Congress.

Marcos told the National Coconut Farmers Assembly, 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.

According to Marcos there was no lawmaker who is not in favor of having the coco levy funds be used exclusively by coconut farmers nor a lawmaker who expressed objection on the proposed bill on coco levy use.

In fact, he 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.

Marcos has been conducting consultations with coconut farmers on the issue of the coco levy funds.

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.

Marcos earlier gave his assurance to coconut farmers that he will support moves to ensure that coco levy funds, estimated at P74.3 billion, will be used for their benefit and for the revitalization of the country’s coconut industry.

The Supreme Court on its January 24, 2012 decision ruled that 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.”

But Marcos reminded the 120 leaders of coconut farmers organizations during the assembly, to remain vigilant and ensure that the proposed law on 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.