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

admin   •   July 26, 2018   •   4587

 

 

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

Coconut farmers oppose Senate, House versions of coco levy trust fund bill

Marje Pelayo   •   December 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A group of coconut farmers expressed opposition to both the Senate and the House of Representatives’ versions of a measure would create a trust fund for coconut farmers.

Under the approved House Bill 8136 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, annual utilization of coco levy trust fund will be allocated to the following programs:

  1. Shared facilities program (10%)
  2. Farm improvement (10%)
  3. Coconut seeds (10%)
  4. Empowerment of coco farmers organizations and cooperatives (10%)
  5. Scholarship (10%)
  6. Health and medical program (10%)
  7. Credit provision (10%)
  8. Infrastructure development (10%)
  9. Training of farmers (TESDA) 10%
  10. Planting and replanting (10%)

The Senate has already approved its version of the bill.

The group, Coconut Industry Reform Movement (COIR), noted that in both versions, the government’s programs for the coconut industry and farmers will be limited to the specified allocations only.

COIR spokesperson, Joey Faustino, emphasized that the coco levy fund should not become part of the government fund but should be exclusively used for the benefit of coconut farmers and the industry.

The coco levy fund is estimated at around P76 billion.

The said amount was tax collected from the coconut farmers during the term of former president Ferdinand Marcos.

“Sabi nila magsagawa ng plano o road map ng industriya ang PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority ). But to take into consideration na 10 percent dito sa ahensyang ito, five percent doon sa ahensyang ito ng annual allocation… Ano pa ipaplano mo? Isinagawa na nila, itinago lang nila sa mga programa kuno na kailangan ng mga magniniyog,” Faustino said.

The group also questioned the small portion of farmers representation in the board and even in the Trust Fund Committee.

Ed Mora of Kilos Magniniyog said, “Hindi kami isinama at nasa gobyerno lahat ang bubuo ng trust fund committee para mamahala o magmaneho ng pera.”

Mora also noted the removal of the provision to limit beneficiaries to only farmers owning not more than five hectares.

Last 17th Congress na-veto dahil din daw walang limit. Isa iyon sa rason. Walang limit ang benepisyaryo. Bakit inuulit pa? ” Faustino said

The group plans to raise their concerns to President Rodrigo Duterte and ask him to veto the bill. Otherwise, the group said they will seek help from the Supreme Court. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Passage of Coco Levy Trust Fund bill seen this week

Marje Pelayo   •   December 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — House Speaker Allan Velasco sees the passage anytime this week of the proposed bill on the establishment of the Coco Levy Trust Fund.

House Bill 8136 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act already passed the second reading in the committee level.

The bill seeks to utilize the tax collected from coconut farmers some decades ago that reached more than P76-billion.

Velasco said the passage of the bill will hugely help improve the lives of coconut farmers in the country as well as the coconut industry in general.

“The establishment of the trust fund will ensure that the recovered Coco Levy Funds will be used for the development of the coconut industry and to uplift the lives of coco farmers who are among the poorest in the country,” the House Speaker said.

Beneficiaries of the bill are the 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 provinces across the country who rear not less than five hectares of coconut farm.

The proposed measure states that the fund will be maintained under a Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plant that will be managed by the Philippine Coconut Authority.  MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Piñol to be ‘very strict’ in managing P10B/y farmers’ fund under RCEF

Marje Pelayo   •   April 4, 2019

Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol

MANILA, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Thursday (April 4) said he will make sure that the P10 billion per year Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) will be profitably expended up to the last centavo.

The DA is now awaiting the final draft of the Rice Tariffication Law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to be able to begin improvements in farm mechanization, seed distribution and be able to provide agriculture financing programs for farmers as stated in the law.

As directed by President Rodrigo Duterte, Secretary Piñol will solely manage and oversee the disbursements of the RCEF.

With this huge responsibility, the secretary said he will ensure that the fund will be free of any irregularity.

“I will be solely accountable for the disbursement and utilization of the RCEF funds. And because of that, I will be very, very strict about it,” Piñol said.

Through the additional financial assistance, Piñol is confident that local farmers will have the chance to compete with the demands of the market and improve their yield while there is a reduction in production costs.

Meanwhile, the Secretary said they are still in the process of adjusting the separation pay of retiring employees and NFA staff who will be affected by the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law.

The concerned employees are appealing for similar benefits as their counterparts in the ARMM or the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) who will also be affected by the new law.

However, the final decision on the issue will still depend on the government’s economic managers.

“Kung talagang iyon ang desisyon ng economic managers then I will sign the IRR (If that is the decision of the economic managers, then I will sign the IRR),” he concluded. – Marje Pelayo (with details from Rey Pelayo)

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