By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo wants more farmer representatives to be part of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) board that will manage the P100-billion trust fund for coconut farmers.
“From the very start naman, isa iyon sa pinapakipaglaban natin, na sana mas marami iyong representatives na manggagaling sa mga farmers,” she said on her Sunday radio show, “BISErbisyong Leni.”
(From the very start, it’s one of the things we fight for that more representatives will come from the farmers.)
“Kasi kung mayroon mang interesadong pangalagaan iyong pondo, sila iyon. Kasi para sa kanila iyon,” Robredo added.
(Because if there is someone who is interested to take care of the funds, it is the farmers. It’s because the funds are intended for them.)
Robredo, a lawyer for the poor who fought for the farmers’ rights before she entered politics, made the remarks after President Duterte vetoed the bill reconstituting the PCA that will manage billions in coco levy funds.
According to Malacañang, Duterte vetoed the bill on coconut levy because it was prone to corruption like the Road Board and lacked vital safeguards.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Chief Executive also rejected the composition of the reconstituted 15-person PCA board –six coconut farmer representatives, one coconut industry representative and the rest government officials.
The Vice President said she was surprised that Duterte vetoed the coconut levy bill.
“Alam natin na kapag may gusto naman iyong Pangulo, sumusunod naman ang Kongreso, ‘di ba. Maraming mga panukala na pinasa ng Kongreso dahil gusto ng Pangulo. Kaya nakakagulat ito sa coco levy,” she said.
(We know if the President wants something, the Congress follows him, right. The Congress passed many measures because the President wanted it. That’s why this is surprising on coco levy.)
Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said Duterte’s veto of the bill would delay justice for coconut farmers.
“We will have an election. There is a big danger that after a long process, the Congress will have new members who have different views and opinions—that’s why the justice our coconut farmers have long been waiting will be reset and delayed,” he said in Filipino.
Hilbay, who is one of the senatorial candidates from the “Otso Diretso” slate for the May polls, was guest at Robredo’s radio show.
As the former top government lawyer, he pushed for bringing the P60-billion in coconut levy funds to government coffers for the benefit of the farmers.