MANILA, Philippines – As waist-deep flood waters swamped parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, at least a hundred farmers stormed President Benigno Aquino III’s home in Times St., Quezon City to protest the government’s refusal to return the controversial coconut levy funds to the sector.
Members of Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM), the Bicol Coconut Planters Association, Inc. (BCPAI) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) demanded that the government distribute the funds to the sector instead of the establishment of “Agro-Industrial Hubs.”
KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella claimed that of the P2.3 billion budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority in 2014, P305 million will be allocated for the said hubs which are supposed to help rehabilitate the industry.
But Marbella said the fund is now in grave danger, especially if it will be given to “pork barrel scam-notorious agencies like the [Department of Agriculture] and the [Department of Agrarian Reform].”
“Why use coco farmers’ money for the benefit of big agribusinesses?” he said.
The group claimed that DAR is planning to use the coconut levy funds for “anti-peasant agrarian reform program” and that “only big landlords will benefit.”
“Using our money for the acquisition of coco lands and compensation for big landlords and at the same time collecting amortization from small coconut farmers is totally unacceptable,” he added.
Reports said the group held a short program before leaving voluntarily.
During the Marcos administration, coconut farmers were taxed by the government with the promise of developing the industry and a share of the investments. Instead, then President Ferdinand Marcos and his allies allegedly used the funds for personal profit through the purchase of the United Coconut Planters Bank and shares of the San Miguel Corporation, among others.