KMP: Farmers want cash from coco levyBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY—Coconut farmers across the country prefer to receive cash from the P56.5 billion in coconut levy fund that is now in the hands of the national government, according to a leader of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said their office had been flooded with phone calls and text messages from coconut farmers nationwide asking how to recover the coco levy fund.
“The coconut farmers who contacted us want their money back. They don’t want Aquino’s government to use their money in the name of small coconut farmers and the so-called poverty reduction roadmap of the coconut industry,” Marbella said in an e-mailed statement to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday.
As of Friday, Marbella, also the spokesperson of Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan, said the number of queries had reached over 200 after the landline and mobile phone numbers of their office in Quezon City were mentioned in a radio interview.
Marbella said KMP had dispatched several teams in different coconut-producing provinces to discuss the merits of their cash distribution proposal as a mode of returning the multibillion peso fund to benefit the long-suffering farmers.
“Phone calls and text messages are not enough to fully explain the issue. We have to reach them out and personally explain to them the advantage of the cash distribution,” Marbella said.
On Oct. 5, food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. paid the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF)—the administrator of the coconut levy fund—P56.5 billion in proceeds from the redemption of its Series 1 preferred shares. The CIIF, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government, in turn remitted the money to the National Treasury.
However, the Aquino administration has yet to disclose how to use the money apparently still awaiting instruction from the President.
The Coalition of Coconut Farmers of Quezon, the biggest coalition of farmers’ organizations in the province, wants the coco levy money intact as a perpetual trust fund for the coconut industry until a law is passed and policies are set and determined on how best to benefit the coconut farmers.
Quezon farmers are believed to be the biggest contributors to the coco levy fund that was exacted from coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982 during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law regime, supposedly to develop the coconut industry.
Marbella reiterated their calls on the House of Representatives for the passage of Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano’s House Bill No. 3443 that seeks to constitute the coconut levy fund into a Coconut Farmers Fund to rehabilitate and develop the coconut industry.
The farmers groups also support Deputy Speaker Wigberto “Erin” Tañada’s House Bill No. 5070, which seeks to finance programs that would increase the coconut farmers’ productivity, develop coconut-based enterprises and promote antipoverty programs.