SIXTEEN senators signed the committee report on a Senate bill establishing a trust fund involving the P75-billion coco levy fund that has remained unused for the past 40 years.
However, the disposition of the fund is still pending before at the House of Representatives which formed a technical working group to tackle 13 different proposals submitted by congressmen.
The report on Senate Bill 1233 was signed by Senators Francis Pangilinan, Loren Legarda, Richard Gordon, Francis Escudero, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Gregorio Honasan II, Sonny Angara, Panfilo Lacson, Bam Aquino, Manny Pacquiao, Leila de Lima, Sherwin Gatchalian and Risa Hontiveros.
As ex-oficio members, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Vicente Sotto III also signed the committee report.
Pangilinan, who sponsored the bill, said the bill specifies that P75 billion in cash and assets of the coco levy fund will only be used for the development of the coconut industry and establishes a perpetual trust fund which will only use the earned interest income.
“This is for a lifetime in which the interest income will be used,” said Pangilinan, adding that the bill also creates a trust fund committee composed of 11 members, six of whom should either be from coconut farmers groups or their representatives.
The trust fund committee will be chaired by the Secretary of Finance and co-chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture.
He said the bill also seeks to specify the formulation of a Coconut Development Plan and ensure the active participation of coconut farmers at every stage of the implementation of the law.
At the same time, the farmers’ groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin on Thursday cited two mechanisms to take control and management of the funds and ensure benefits from the fund.
“The twin mechanisms of a Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Fund and Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Council are acceptable measures to ensure that coco farmers would benefit from the P75-billion coco levy that is now under escrow at the Bureau of Treasury,” Claim spokesman Arvin Borromeo said.
“These mechanisms are necessary to ensure that the control and management of the levy are in the hands of coco farmers,” Borromeo said.
“We assert our position against the privatization of the coco levy fund and assets,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.
“It is only just that farmers directly recover, manage and utilize the fund that is originally intended for their benefit and welfare,” the peasant leader added.
“To correct the historical injustices committed by previous governments, Marcos cronies including Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. and all those who plundered the coco levy fund exacted from farmers, it is only just and necessary that small coconut farmers be granted control and management of the coco levy fund,” Borromeo said.
Coco farmers continue to assert that the entire coco levy fund and assets, including but not limited to the United Coconut Planters Bank and coco levy fund-acquired coconut oil mills, should be administered, utilized and used for the benefit of small coconut farmers.
KMP and Claim support the seven-point proposal outlined in the House Bill 557 or the Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Fund.
Aside from social benefits in the form of cash, “socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives shall be financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund.” With Sandy Araneta