Bill paving way for P100-B coco levy fund release up for PRRD signing

Published February 9, 2021, 5:30 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act or Coco Levy Act, which will pave the way for the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund, is just awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Business Bulletin learned that the copy of the Coco Levy Act has already been sent to Malacañang Palace.

(MB FILE, Keith Bacongco)

This was after weeks since House decided to adopt Senate Bill (SB) 1396 as an amendment to House Bill (HB) 8136, which will both pave the way for the release of the coco levy fund — the taxes imposed on coconut farmers by the Marcos administration and its cronies more than 40 years ago.

Both proposed legislation were separately passed on the third and final reading last year.

As this happens, Kilusan para sa Ugnayan ng mga Samahang Magniniyog (Kilus Magniniyog) also sent a letter to Duterte, appealing to veto the Coco Levy Act because of its alleged unfavorable provisions. 

The letter was coursed through Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Director for Basic Sector Coordinating and Advocacy Service John Lana. 

In the letter, the group of coconut farmers asked to have a dialogue with the President regarding the forthcoming release of the coco levy fund.

“We are pleading for our voice to be heard, President Duterte. We all agree that the proposed law involving the coconut levy should be considered social justice legislation, a law that aims to correct the injustices in our history,” Ireneo Cerilla of Kilus Magniniyog said in the letter. 

Cerilla, who is also a farmer in Quezon, also reminded Duterte of his campaign promise that he will make sure coconut farmers will benefit from the coco levy fund.

During his last three State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte never failed to mention this promise.
And though the Coco Levy Act was passed in 2019, the President vetoed it because it lacked safeguards and that its provisions “do not reflect our ultimate goal of accelerating the further utilization of coco levy assets and funds for the benefit of our marginalized coconut farmers and the coconut industry”. 

“Unfortunately, despite the fact that the President mentions this in his SONA every year, the Congress seems to have never listened to him the way it never listened to us,” Cerilla said.

Allowing coconut farmers or planters who own more than five hectares of land is one of the provisions of the Coco Levy Act that farmers are opposing.

According to them, this contradicts one of the reasons why Duterte vetoed the first draft of the Coco Levy Act in the first place.

Duterte said at the time that the absence of a limit on a covered land area for entitlement to the benefits of the trust fund may disproportionately benefit wealthy coconut farm owners more than the smallholder farmers.

The coconut farmers’ group also said the provision of the Coco Levy Act to divide the annual coco levy fund to different government agencies is in contrast with the establishment of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which should serve as a guide as the fund’s utilization and should be drafted in consultation with coconut farmers.

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), which will be tasked to handle the coco levy trust fund, is the agency drafting the roadmap.

Kilus Magniniyog is composed of members of Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Makabayang Mambubukid (PKMM), Kalipunan ng Maliliit na Magniniyog ng Pilipinas (KAMMPIL), Coconut Industry Reform Movement, Inc. (COIR), among others.