Pangilinan warns against coco levy funds release
Senator-elect Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has cautioned the incoming administration against releasing the coco levy funds directly to the coconut farmers, citing its legality and impact on addressing the plight of the farmers.
Pangilinan issued this warning, following President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s reported order that the coconut levy funds should be given to the farmers.
“The incoming administration should seriously study the matter of releasing the coco levy funds directly to the coconut farmers on two grounds namely as to its effectivity and impact on addressing the plight of the farmers and as to its legality,” the senator-elect said in a statement on Friday.
“Firstly, many of the coconut farmers who actually contributed to the fund have already passed on and their heirs numerous. Conservatively, coconut farmers population number over three million nationwide.”
“If the P72 Billion fund is distributed directly to coconut farmers that would mean each farmer would receive some P20,000.00. That amount is a little higher than the average annual income of the coconut farmer which is P15,000.00. The amount distributed will have no real impact on addressing poverty,” he further said.
Pangilinan also cited the Supreme Court ruling, which stated that the P72 Billion coco levy fund held in trust was public funds that ought to be used for the benefit of the coconut farmers and industry.
The distribution of funds, he said, is now covered by Presidential Decree 1234, which gave the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) authority and jurisdiction over the disbursement of the funds.
“The release of these funds will require PCA board approval,” he said.
Pangilinan warned that cash releases directly to the farmers might be questioned in court, again citing another SC ruling.
“The release of the coco levy fund must be guided by the 2012 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Cocofed v. Republic holding that the fund ‘is owned by the government and is to be used only for the benefit of the coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.’” he said.
Incoming Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier quoted Duterte telling his incoming Cabinet that “the coconut levy funds should be given to the farmers.”
“This is an emotional issue for the coconut farmers, including my late mother,” Piñol also quoted Duterte as saying. CDG/rga