Getting helpless over the Senate version of the proposed Coco Levy Act, coconut farmers will attempt to seek for the intervention of Senator Bong Go, the longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte, about the “unfavorable” provisions of the proposed bill that sought to release the P100-billion coconut levy fund.
Pambansang Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) Chairman Eduardo Mora told Business Bulletin that his group, which represents more than 100,000 coconut farmers across the country, will seek Senator Go’s help saying they are already running out of options when it comes to fighting for how they think the P100-billion coconut levy fund should be released.
The Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund bill or the Coco Levy Act, which was vetoed by Duterte last year, was recently approved on second reading in the Senate.
The proposed law will pave the way for the release of the coco levy fund, the tax collected from coconut farmers from 1972 to 1982 by the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
However, farmer groups like PKMP are against some of the provisions of the Coco Levy Act, which include trusting the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) with the fund, fewer farmer representatives in the trust fund management committee, and allowing the large coconut plantation owners to also benefit from the release.
During the recent deliberation on the Coco Levy Act, only three senators – Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon and Risa Hontiveros – sought to add farmer representatives in the Trust Fund Management Committee that will be tasked to handle the coco levy fund.
The rest of the senators, including Go, voted against it.
The committee shall be responsible for setting the investment strategy of the trust fund, including the management of the estimated P76 billion in cash, disposition of the estimated P30 billion in other assets, as well as other funds or assets still pending before the courts that may be re-conveyed to the government.
“We respect the decision of the body, but we strongly believe that our coconut farmers should be involved in all aspects of the decision-making process in the management of the coconut levy funds. It is, after all, their money; the blood, sweat, and tears of our coconut farmers,” Pangilinan said.
The committee under the current version of the Senate bill is composed of representatives from the Departments of Finance, Budget and Management, and Justice.
Despite this development, Mora, who also serves as the representative of National Anti-Poverty Commission’s (NAPC) Farmers and Landless Rural Workers Sectoral Council, is hopeful that Go, being the one closest to the President, could help them address their plea.