Senator Cynthia Villar welcomed on Tuesday President Duterte’s renewed push for the passage of the coco levy bill to redistribute the taxes imposed on coconut farmers during the Marcos administration.
Duterte, during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, urged Congress to pass a bill creating a Coconut Farmers Trust Fund for the benefit of coconut farmers and development of the country’s coconut industry.
“Like the President, I believe that the the urgent utilization of the coconut levy fund will help uplift the lives of coconut farmers. It is long overdue, the monies of our coconut farmers, which they rightfully own, will also benefit the coconut industry, not only the 3.5 million coconut farmers,” Villar said in a statement.
Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, has been pushing for the release and utilization of the coco levy that was imposed on coconut farmers from 1971 to 1983. The amount collected is now estimated to be P105 billion.
A coco levy bill had been passed during the 17th Congress but Duterte, in February 2019, vetoed the measure for being “violative of the Constitution and lacking in vital safeguards.”
Last May 28, Villar sponsored the revised version of the coco levy bill, the Senate Bill No. 1396 she co-authored, along with Senators Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, and Imee Marcos.
“The bill was re-filed with some modifications, taking into consideration the inputs being suggested by the executive branch of government so it will not be vetoed again. We are confident that it will already be enacted into law, given the President’s support,” the senator said.
Under the new coco levy bill, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will be managed and disbursed in accordance with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan which will be formulated and implemented by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
This shall be separate and distinct from the regular fund of the PCA from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) and shall have a life span of 99 years.
Once enacted, the Bureau of Treasury shall transfer P5 billion to the Trust Fund, and another P5 billion shall be initially allocated to the PCA.
The Trust Fund shall be used for the establishment of essential facilities for the coconut industry, empowerment of coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, farm improvement, scholarship programs, and health and medical program for industry members.