Left farmers’ group backs probe of palm oil importsBy Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Inquirer Southern Luzon
LUCENA CITY—The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the claimants movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) on Sunday declared support for a move to have Congress investigate the importation and selling of palm-based cooking oil by a sequestered oil mill.
“These oil mills were established using our money and is therefore owned by small coconut farmers. The return of all coco levy funds and assets to its rightful owners is long overdue,” said KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella in a statement on Sunday.
It is also time, he added, that companies established using the coco levy funds be turned over to the farmers.
On Friday, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez (Quezon, third district) said he would ask Congress to look into the “anomalous” selling of “Mitra Oil,” a palm-based cooking oil, by San Pablo Manufacturing Corp. (SPMC), a sequestered oil mill which is tasked with promoting coconut-based products.
Suarez said the entry of Mitra oil in the local market is anomalous because it directly competes with the main product of SPMC—coconut cooking oil.
The palm cooking oil distributed by SPMC is produced by PT Smart Tbk in Indonesia, said the label on the product’s bottle.
SPMC is one of the six oil mills in the country acquired or established through the Coconut Industry Investment Fund, which formed part of the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund, also known as the coconut levy fund created in 1973 by Presidential Decree No. 276.
“While small coconut farmers suffer from very low prices of copra, the Aquino government’s importation policy continues to wreak havoc on the lives of millions of small coconut farmers,” Marbella said.
He said coconut farmers hoped the House inquiry would pave the way for the turnover to coconut farmers of mills and all assets acquired through coco levy funds.
Marbella said the Suarez exposé showed that assets from coco levy funds, such as the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), “are continuously being mismanaged, in fact plundered.”