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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2019   •   927

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

Duterte says he ordered dismissal of 3 cops in body camera extortion case

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 21, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (November 20) said that he ordered the dismissal of three police officers involved in the body camera extortion case.

The three police officers were allegedly involved in extorting around P5 million from a bidder of body cameras.

“In the police, I—the three majors were working on a body camera and they were arguing because maybe of—because of money. What else? Because of corruption. And so I said, ‘Fire them, dismiss them,'” he said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa identified the police officers as Police Major Emerson Sales, Police Major Rholly Caraggayan and Police Major Angel Beros. 

Gamboa also said that he will sign the dismissal papers by Monday (November 25).—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte orders ban on vapes, EO to follow

Marje Pelayo   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a ban on sale, importation and use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or vapes.

Furthermore, the Chief Executive ordered law enforcement agencies to arrest anyone who would be caught vaping in all public places across the country.

The President is convinced that vaping poses more harm to people than smoking ordinary cigarettes.

“Vaping is also dangerous and I am banning it, and if you are smoking now, you will be arrested,” he announced during the press briefing on Tuesday (November 19) in Malacañang.

“I am banning the importation. Customs, you listen to it. I’m banning it altogether,” he added.

The President said he will issue an executive order to formalize his directive.

The Chief Executive’s announcement came after a recent report of the first e-cigarette vaping-associated lung injury (e-VALI) in the country.

“I have that urgent power to do it, so I’m ordering it,” he said.

“The EO will follow. I’m banning it because it’s contrary to public safety,” the President concluded. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte defends controversial SEA Games cauldron

Marje Pelayo   •   November 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte defended the controversial stadium cauldron for the 30th South East Asian Games (SEA Games) happening from November 30 to December 11.

The issue stemmed from Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioning the amount spent for the cauldron which allegedly has reached P50 million during the Senate deliberation on the proposed 2020 budget of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

Drilon said such a huge amount could be used to construct school rooms.

The Chief Executive said, the price was reasonable because it included the honorarium for national artist Bobby Mañosa who designed the monument.

“Itong si Mañosa was commissioned to create iyong nakitang kaldero ngayon (what you see now as the cauldron). It is the product of the mind,” the President said.

Based on report, the design alone costs P4.48 million while the foundation costs P13.5 million.

The labor and construction, meanwhile, costs P32 million.

“You cannot estimate how much nalugi ka (your loss) because it is the rendition of the mind of the creator. Kung iyan ang singil niya, huwag mong bilhin kung ayaw mo (If that’s his price, don’t buy it if you don’t like it),” Duterte said. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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