The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish a trust fund from coco levy assets, which should be disbursed in the next five decades for the benefit of 3.5 million farmers.
Senate Bill 1396 received 22 affirmative votes, zero negative votes and zero abstention in the upper chamber, more than two months after President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress to pass the measure during his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address.
Under the proposed law, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will be established using the proceeds from the coco levy fund and the assets sequestered by the government, which is estimated at P100 billion.
Unlike the vetoed coco levy bill last year, this one specifically states that the period set for the use of the trust fund would only be 50 years, considering the previous opinion of Duterte that establishing an “effectively perpetual” trust fund would violate the 1987 Constitution.
A development plan for the coconut industry, which will be prepared by the Philippine Coconut Authority and approved by the President, will guide how the trust fund is disbursed.
Immediately upon the enactment of the measure, the Bureau of Treasury will transfer P10 billion to the trust fund.
From the second up to the fifth year of its enactment, the Treasury will transfer P10 billion, P15 billion, P15 billion and P25 billion, respectively, to the trust fund.
All coco levy assets in the name of the Philippine government will also be sold within five years after the bill is signed into law.
Other coco levy assets that may be recovered will likewise be sold within five years from the time they have been declared as belonging to the government. The proceeds of will also be turned over to the trust fund.
The amount in the trust fund account available for disposition will not be lower than P5 billion every year, the bill says.
The following shall be the breakdown of the annual allocation from the trust fund:
15% for planting and replanting of hybrid coconut seedlings and the production of hybrid coconut seedlings by the Philippine Coconut Authority
5% for research and production of hybrid coconut seedlings by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development;
8% for the training of coconut farmers and their families as listed in the coconut farmers’ registry in the farm schools through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Agricultural Training Institute to be shared equally;
5% for research, marketing and promotion by the Bureau of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development under the Department of Trade and Industry;
10% to be shared equally for farm improvements through diversification and intercropping with livestock, dairy, poultry, coffee and cacao production by the National Dairy Authority and the Department of Agriculture;
10% for shared facilities for processing by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization, to be given to cooperatives. If there’s no cooperative in the town, it will go to LGUs;
5% for organizing and empowering coconut farmer organizations and their cooperatives under the Cooperative Development Authority;
10% to be shared equally for the credit programs of the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines;
10% for infrastructure development, to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways in coconut-producing local government units;
8% for scholarship programs for farmers and their families to be implemented by the Commission on Higher Education;
10% for health and medical programs for farmers and their families;
4% for crop insurance to be implemented by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation