LUCENA CITY—The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (Claim) movement on Sunday asked the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to support their call to the government to return the P70-billion coconut levy fund to the farmers.
KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said they had submitted to the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action the “Coconut Farmers’ Proposal for the Disposition of the Coco Levy Funds.”
“We have high hopes that the Catholic bishops will support our proposal,” Marbella said in an e-mail interview.
Marbella said millions of coconut farmers demand that the coco levy funds be used for “social benefits of small coconut farmers in the form of cash.”
Bishops from 86 dioceses from all over the country began their three-day 107th plenary assembly, which includes the biennial CBCP elections on July 6.
The farmer’s proposal, a copy of which was furnished the Inquirer, seeks to establish a “Small Coconut Farmers’ Council” to directly manage and administer the recovered coco levy fund.
KMP and Claim insisted that small coconut farmers should be the primary beneficiaries of the fund in the form of cash and other social benefits, including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits and educational assistance.
The proposal also wants the coco levy funds to finance socio-economic programs that include livelihood projects, loan facilities, small-scale and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing, among many other projects and programs for small coconut farmers through their recognized organizations.
Marbella said that after more than 40 years since the coco levy funds were forcibly exacted from small coconut farmers during the Marcos dictatorship, “no single genuine small coconut farmer has benefited from the money.”
The recovered coconut levy fund, estimated to be around P70 billion, is expected to benefit more than 20 million coconut farmers and their families living in more than 21,000 coconut-producing villages across the country.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is opposed to the cash distribution of the coco levy fund and suggested that it be used to rehabilitate and modernize the industry so that the benefits would trickle down to the poorest coconut farmer.
Under Alcala’s proposal, the fund will be placed in a perpetual trust fund and parts of its earning will be used in the long-neglected research and development of the coconut industry.
The Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds has also been pushing the allocation of P11.17 billion from the fund for its Poverty Reduction Program for the Coconut Industry project.