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Duterte wants more safeguards; vetoes bill reconstituting PCA

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, February 11th, 2019

FILE PHOTO: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte refused to sign Senate Bill 1976 and House Bill 8522 which seek to strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and manage the billion-peso coco levy fund for farmers.

Malacañang argued that the P10-billion in annual appropriation for the development of an industry “is susceptible to corruption akin to creating pork barrel funds” because its implementation is handled by an agency that is not required to seek approval from the Executive Branch.

With a reconstituted PCA, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, there will be no checks and balances over its functions including the sale, disposition and dissolution of the coco levy assets.

The Executive Branch is also not in favor of the bill’s composition of the 15-member PCA Board which employs seven members from the private sector which “translates to permitting private persons to influence the disbursement of public funds.”

Lastly, the Palace argued that: “The PCA is set up like the Road Board which is heavily criticized for allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds.”

“The PCA Board, like the Road Board which disburses the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge, is given full authority to disburse PhP10-Billion every year in perpetuity without a terminal date, and subject only to review by Congress after six years”, Panelo said.

The measure’s author, Senator Cynthia Villar said it is “unfortunate” that President Duterte did not sign the bill but remains hopeful for the local farmers to soon benefit from the coco levy fund.

“Certainly, this will not discourage us until we see the day when our coconut farmers, who are among our country’s poorest, benefit from the fund that is rightfully theirs,” Villar concluded.

With these, the Chief Executive is asking Congress to redraft the bill and put more safeguards to the funds intended for the local coconut farmers. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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Bicam okays Coco Levy Trust Fund under a reconstituted PCA

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018




Aerial shot of a coconut farm via UNTV Drone

PASAY CITY, Philippines – The bicameral conference committee has approved the creation of the coconut levy trust fund on Wednesday (August 1).

The proposed measure will allow farmers to benefit from the government’s collected coconut levy fund during the Marcos regime.

However, member of the Senate panel, Senator Francis Pangilinan, expressed dissatisfaction over the provisions of the approved version, particularly the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund and how the fund will be expended.

The approved version adopted the provisions of the Senate version which will form a reconstituted Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) that would manage the trust fund.

Senator Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said in a statement that, “No committee will be formed, just the reconstituted PCA.”

This means, that before the farmers benefit from the P100 billion coco levy fund, there must be a separate law that would create the PCA to be led by a governing board composed of six farmer-representatives, four government officials, and one industry representative.

This, according to Senator Pangilinan is in contrast to his version that seeks for the creation of a Trust Fund Committee with farmers as the majority of its members.

Pangilinan is also not convinced by the proposed utilization of the fund.

The approved version proposed that 30% of the fund will be utilized for share facilities program; 30% for farm improvement; 15% for education or scholarship program; 15% for the empowerment of coconut farmer cooperatives;  and only 10% for health and medical needs of farmers and their kin.

Nevertheless, Pangilinan hopes that the government will give utmost consideration to the farmers in spending the coco levy fund as they should have a major part in every decision regarding its utilization.

Around 3.5 million farmers are expected to benefit once the measure is approved. Five billion pesos (P5B) will be utilized from the fund every year which is expected to last up to 25 years.

Once ratified, the bill would be transmitted to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature. – Nel Maribojoc / Marje Pelayo

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Over P75-B coco levy fund still out of farmers’ reach – COIR

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, July 26th, 2018



Coconut farmers protest over coco levy fund scam


MANILA, Philippines — Millions of Filipino coconut farmers have been waiting for the return of coco levy funds that have been denied from them for almost four decades now.

This was collected from the coconut farmers during martial law amounting to 9.7 billion pesos from 1973 to 1982.

Two-point-seven billion pesos (P2.7 billion) from the fund was reportedly used in the establishment of the United Coconut Planters Bank and oil mills.  Some were invested in San Miguel Corporation. Much of the funds allegedly went into the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

On Monday’s (July 23) State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned anew the establishment of a trust fund to unlock the coco levy fund for the benefit of the small farmers.

“Our farmers, especially our coconut farmers, form a significant part of the basic sectors of society. It is from the toil of their hands that we put food on the table. It is my hope that we finally see this through. I urge you Congress to convene the [bicameral] conference committee and pass at the soonest possible time the bill establishing the coconut farmers’ trust fund.  I pray that you will do it,” said the President.

Coconut Industry Reform Movement (COIR) said that only P2.7 billion of the total amount invested may be recovered.

“This invested amount of P2.7 billion had grown to around P200 billion already,” said COIR spokesperson Joey Faustino.

Of the P200 billion since 2012, the only part recovered were shares from San Miguel Corporation, United Coconut Planters Bank, CIIF Oil Mills Group of Companies amounting to P75 million.

The group previously filed a bill in the 16th Congress seeking the establishment of a trust fund which will be directly released to small coconut farmers.

“The cash now is worth P75 billion, plus yung shares ng mga kompanya na narecover ay gawin ng isang trust fund,” said the spokesperson.

The trust fund is dedicated for livelihood projects, social protection, and empowering farmers’ association and for lending additional capital for farmers to purchase new equipment.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a block of shares from San Miguel, UCPB and Oil Mills Group of Companies be given to coconut farmers; however, this has yet to materialize.

“Sa ngayon hindi magalaw ng pamahalaan ang resources na ito at magamit because the Supreme Court required a legislation to guide utilization”, said Faustino.

The group hopes that Duterte’s mention of the coco levy fund in his third SONA will prompt the lawmakers to pass a bill establishing the coconut farmers’ trust fund.

The bicameral panel on coco levy fund, meanwhile, plans to meet next week to tackle the said bill. — Roderic Mendoza | UNTV News & Rescue

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NFA to return under DA supervision

by admin   |   Posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Department of Agriculture under Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the return of the National Food Authority under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture.

Grains Retailers’ Confederation of the Philippines national president James Magbanua confirmed that aside from NFA, the President also wants the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Philippine Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority be reverted back to DA.

Magbanua was present during last night’s NFA Council meeting presided by President Duterte.

“Ibinalik niya ang pangangasiwa ng tatlong ahensya sa (He returned the supervision of the three agencies to the) Department of Agriculture under Secretary Manny Piñol – NFA, Philippine Coconut Authority at saka (and the) Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority,” he said.

The NFA is currently being handled by Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco.

Meanwhile, NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said it does not matter which department they will be under, their priority is to address the agency’s dwindling rice buffer stock. — Rey Pelayo | UNTV News & Rescue

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