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

Marje Pelayo   •   July 23, 2019   •   820

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’s China visit to skip Fujian province

Marje Pelayo   •   August 23, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte and his delegation are set to fly to China for a working visit in response to the invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

It will be Duterte’s fifth visit to Beijing and his eight meeting with Xi.

The two leaders will meet on August 29 when they will discuss several agreements on education, science and technology, economy and social development.

The President himself also stressed that he would insist the Hague Arbitral Ruling during his meeting with the Chinese President along with other sensitive issues like the code of conduct and joint exploration in the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We cannot preempt what does the President will discuss in particular regarding the arbitral ruling. So, it will be his call during the meeting with the President with his counterpart,” explained Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre.

The Philippine delegation will also attend a business forum in China in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The President’s itinerary includes a meeting with Vice President Wang Qishan and some relax time in the opening of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Guanzhou on August 31 in support to the Philippines’ GILAS team in their game against Italy.

Meanwhile, contrary to earlier announcements, President Duterte will no longer push through with his visit to Fujian province where he was supposed to grace the launching of a university building as tribute to his mother, Soledad.

According to the President’s close in staff, this is not the right time for it.

“But for this particular visit, there was a plan and then the recommendation now is to move it at a later date because it’s more appropriate to be done at a later date and not at this particular time,” noted Robert Borje, the Chief of the Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)


Palace opposes Urban Dictionary definition of ‘Duterte’

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 20, 2019

The Malacañang refuted the Urban Dictionary for defining ‘Duterte’ as ‘to scam, trick, or con.

During a press briefing on Tuesday (Aug 20), Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo will seek to counter the definition on the website.

“‘Duterte’ to us means honest, incorruptible, politically-willed person, courageous, selfless, honest, transparent and all good things…and other synonymous terms,” Panelo said.

The definition was uploaded by an unknown internet user one month ago. Urban Dictionary is crowd-sourced online dictionary for slang words and phrases.

Panelo suspects, the uploader might be a member of anti-Duterte groups.—AAC

Malacañang leaves it to PAO Chief to decide on resigning amid corruption complaint

Marje Pelayo   •   August 15, 2019

Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is letting Atty. Persida Acosta to decide on whether or not to resign as Chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) following complaints of corruption.

PAO lawyers filed the complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman accusing the PAO Chief and forensics chief Erwin Erfe of corrupt practices in relation to the disbursements and allocation of the PAO budget.

Acosta and Erfe allegedly committed a ‘systematic scheme’ in diverting P13 million of the agency’s budget for office supplies for drafting Dengvaxia-related cases.

Presidential Spokesman Secretary Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, said that knowing President Rodrigo Duterte, his trust in his officials remains unless reports of irregularities are proven.

“Si President, hangga’t walang findings of probable cause, palaging andun ang trust (President (Duterte’s) trust on a person remains unless there is no finding of a probable cause),” Panelo said.

“Pero kung may probable cause na, ibang usapan iyon, then there will be suspension galing sa Ombudsman. Hindi naman teritoryo ni president iyon (But once a probable cause is established, that’s a different story. There will be suspension coming from the Ombudsman. It is no longer the President’s territory),” the Palace Spokesman concluded. – MNP (with details from Mai Bermudez)

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