Duterte asks Congress to fast-track passage of Coco Levy Trust Fund bill

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2019   •   1177

MANILA, Philippines – Coconut farmers lament over the cheap price of copra that burdens their income at present.

“Bagsak na bagsak na talaga ang copra kaya wala na halos (ikabuhay), (Our copra industry is dying. We are losing income,” said Froilan Revilla, a coconut farmer from Mauban, Quezon.

Revilla said the current price of copra which is at P13.50/kg gives his family an earning of only P2,000 which they need to budget for three months.

The said amount, Revilla explained, was far lower than P8,000 earning per harvest that they used to get from P56/kg price of copra some years ago, specifically in 2000.

According to Revilla, other coconut farmers opted to sacrifice copra farming to venture into alternative sources of income to survive.

For his part, Revilla said he augments his income by planting and selling vegetables and fruits to be able to support his child’s education, though it pains him that his son no longer has interest in coconut farming.

Ayaw ko po sa bundok. Mahirap po ang trabaho, (I don’t like farming as a living. It’s difficult),” said Revilla’s son Reniel who dreams of becoming a policeman.

Given their situation, Revilla and other members of “Kilos Magniniyog” have high hopes in the proposed Coco Levy Trust Fund that President Rodrigo Duterte has been urging the legislators to create.

The Coco Levy Fund is comprised of Marcos-era levy imposed on coconut farmers which has been estimated to have ballooned to P100-B.

The Coco Levy Trust Fund bill has already been forwarded to the President for signing after he made the same plea to the lawmakers in his third SONA in 2018.

But in February this year, the Chief Executive vetoed the proposed legislation because it lacked “vital safeguards” against corruption.

In his SONA on Monday, the President explained that though he understands the urgency of resuscitating the almost dying coconut industry in the country, he still cannot find ‘an honest man’ to manage the fund.

“Kaya ako very careful until now, (That’s why I am very careful until now),” he said.

“This is sacred money. This money was taken out of the pockets of the Filipinos arbitrarily. Tama ang (I agree with the) Supreme Court. You can no longer trace the truthful owner of the land,” he added.

Thus, the President suggested that instead of giving cash to farmers, it would be better to create a trust fund and invest some amount on improvements and developments in the coconut industry.

“Ang plano ko kung gusto ninyo, (My plan and if you agree with me,) you save the money. You invest the money. Siguro magabot iyan ng (The amount is estimated to have reached) more than P100 billion. Lagay na lang ninyo ng (Put it in a) trust fund for the government, (the) P5 billion. Iyon na lang (ang) gastusin ninyo (That would be enough) to reserve the money,” he said.

Though appeased by the President’s plan, coconut farmers said what they want to see now are results of his promise in 2016 that the Coco Levy Fund would be utilized within his first 100 days in office.

“Ito’y salita palang ng Pangulo. Ang katiyakan nito para malubos yung aming tuwa nito gawan ng Pangulo lahat ng paraan para maibalik kaagad yung pera ng Coco Levy sa aming mga magsasaka,” said Ed Mora of the group ‘Kilos Magniniyog”

(That was mere talk from the President. For us to be fully satisfied, the President must find ways to return the benefits of the Coco Levy to us coco farmers.)

The group pushes for a provision that owners of coconut farms larger than five hectares would be excluded from the benefits of the Trust Fund.

Likewise, they suggest that only the interest of the Coco Levy Fund should be utilized for coco farmers’ projects so as to reserve the fund.

They also believe in the importance of creating a joint committee that will manage the Trust Fund with representations from the government and from the coconut farmers as well.

Aside from copra, the coconut farmers also want to promote other coconut-based products such as the virgin coconut oil, one of the country’s export-quality product.

With the President half-way through his term, the coconut farmers hope that the passage of the bill will be accelerated through the House Speakership of Alan Peter Cayetano who is one of the main supporters of the President’s campaign promises. – with details from Rey Pelayo

SONA 2020: Bills Duterte wants 18th Congress to support

Marje Pelayo   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday (July 27) fulfilled one of his most important tasks as head of the country despite the risks of the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

He opted to deliver his SONA personally at the Batasang Pambansa despite heavy rain and several reports of COVID-19 positive test results among some of the event’s supposed attendees.

The ceremony was obviously a deviation from the Congress’ decade-long tradition: no prior meet-up with the Senate and House leaders, no fancy welcoming rites, no live performers and no handshakes.

The President went straight to the plenary upon his arrival and after the opening numbers, he went on to deliver his report to the nation. 

His speech lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes.

During his SONA, President Duterte asked the Congress to pass significant legislation that he believes are necessary in helping his administration propel the country even amidst the ongoing challenges. 

One of which is the revival of death penalty for drug-related crimes.

“I reiterate the swift passage of reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for crimes specified under the Comprehensive Dangerous Acts of 2002,” he said in his speech stressing the dangers illegal drugs cause to an individual and families.

Likewise, he asked Congress to immediately enact the Bayanihan Two so that assistance to sectors most affected by the pandemic will be delivered right away and funds will be made available for the procurement of additional medical equipment that will augment the country’s healthcare system.

“I hope that we can get some or the same treatment of clarity, purpose and the fastness to support the passage of the Bayanihan [to Recover as One Act], which will supplement funds for recovery and response against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Aside from these two priority bills, the President enumerated several legislation which he wants Congress to deliberate and pass soon. 

These include the passage of the:

  • Corporate Recovery And Tax Incentives For Enterprises (Create) Act
  • Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Or Fist Act
  • Establishment of the Department Of Overseas Filipinos
  • National Land Use Act
  • Coconut Farmers and Industry Fund
  • Advanced Nursing Education Act

After his SONA, the President immediately left the Batasang Complex and went back to Malacañang. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Less drama at Duterte’s 5th SONA — Bernal

Marje Pelayo   •   July 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives (HOR) is working double-time to complete the last-minute preparations for the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

But unlike the fourth SONA, some major changes can be expected on that special day of the President, given that the country is experiencing a pandemic. 

Last year’s SONA was a deviation from previous SONAs based on its theme and cinematic treatment initiated by award-winning director Joyce Bernal who was personally picked by the President himself. 

But with the new normal forced by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the plan is to use less camera work because only a few individuals may be allowed to enter the Batasang Pambansa.

Bernal said they have prepared a number of pre-recorded materials for the event which include the singing of the national anthem and some of the supporting materials for the President’s speech.

Also, the facility for the video conferencing of members of the Congress, agency heads and other government officials has already been set up.

Kapag meron kaming mga malalaking equipment na ganun kailangan ng tao so bawas tao talaga,” Bernal said. 

“Siguro iyong mga shots namin, dadaanin na lang sa bilis pero naka-planta na talaga kasi wala na rin yung lakad,” she added.

On Monday (July 27), the Batasan premises will undergo disinfection.

In adherence to strict health protocols, markings will be installed to guide the attendees in observing proper physical distance and body temperature of all persons coming in will be checked.

On Sunday, all persons authorized to physically attend the SONA will have to take the swab test just to ensure that they are COVID-19- free.

Security measures, as always, will be tight and no private media outlet will be allowed inside the venue. 

Expected highlights of Duterte’s fifth SONA will be the administration’s programs for the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

DILG reiterates: No mass gathering during 5th SONA

Aileen Cerrudo   •   July 24, 2020

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has reiterated that mass gathering is still prohibited even during President Rodrigo Duterte’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The reminder was issued following numerous requests made to the department from groups who want to conduct protest rallies during the President’s SONA on Monday (July 27).

In an advisory released by the DILG, the department reminded local government units (LGU) to prohibit mass gatherings, following the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Meanwhile, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said they will strictly monitor and will apprehend anyone who will violate the IATF policies during SONA.

“Base sa instruction and guidelines na kapag may mag-rally doon na bawal at lalo na kapag walang permit at goes beyond the authorized number, aarestuhin talaga sila, (Based on the instruction and guidelines, if a group stages a rally without a permit and goes beyond the authorized number, they will be apprehended),” according to NCRPO Director PMGen. Debold Sinas. AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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