Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte had initially planned to veto the bill creating a P100-billion coconut levy trust fund to be used for the benefit of 3.5-million farmers.
He said the bill was initially slated to be signed into law by the President Tuesday but they learned on Monday that it was removed from the agenda.
“We were supposed to go to Malacañang now for the signing of coco levy fund law but yesterday, we saw that it was scratched out of the list. I called Malacañang, binanggit sa akin na possible veto dito sa batas,” said Zubiri.
Zubiri said he had asked for an emergency meeting with the President to allow the senators to explain the bill.
The senators were able to meet with the president around 6 pm Monday before the Cabinet meeting.
Zubiri said had they not noticed the removal of the coco levy bill on the list, the President would have vetoed it. He said Malacañang had reservations on the bill because most of the groups that will handle the fund are not from the government.
“They said the fund is entrusted to the government so they are treating it as a government fund. Therefore, the composition of the board that would give the funds to the farmers should be majority of government offices,” he said.
He said the Departments of Budget and Management, and Finance also opposed the lack of sunset provision on the bill.
“Ayaw ng DBM at DOF na walang sunset provision ’yung competitiveness fund. Ilang taon ba, dalawang taon, limang taon, hindi pwedeng perpetual na ire-release sa mga magsasaka,” he said.
Zubiri said that in an effort to salvage the bill, the senators agreed to recall the coco levy fund bill and convene the bicameral conference committee to add inputs to the amendments.
He said the Senate and the House of Representatives will pass a concurrent resolution requesting the Office of the President to return the bill to Congress.