House passes coco levy trust fund bill
The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third reading a bill creating the Coconut Industry Trust Fund.
During plenary session, at least 216 members voted in favor of House Bill 5745 seeking to create a Coconut Farmers and Industry Development trust fund.
The seven-member Makabayan bloc opposed the bill’s passage, adding that the coco levy funds, which were imposed on farmers but went to the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies, should be returned to them.
The bill seeks to establish the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund, which should be deposited in the Bureau of Treasury.
The bill states that a P10-billion initial trust fund be used within two years from the approval of the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan” by the President.
The bill seeks to create an ad hoc committee that would prepare every 10 years a plan of programs, projects, and activities to be funded from the Trust Fund.
The bill mandates the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to undertake a full accounting and inventory of all coconut levy assets; and the Commission on Audit (COA) to audit the inventory of the coconut levy assets prepared by the PCGG.
In explaining their no vote, the Makabayan lawmakers said a trust fund would defeat the purpose of directly returning the coco levy funds to the farmers.
“We continue to rub salt [into] the wounds of [these] farmers by creating a law preventing them direct involvement in the usage and utilization of this fund through HB 5745,” Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas.
“Sa matagal na pakikibaka ng mga magsasaka para mabawi ang bilyun-bilyong Coco Levy Fund na dinambong noong martial law at ang Supreme Court na nagdesisyon na dapat ibalik ito sa kanila, sa pagpasa ng panukalang ito, muli na namang ninakawan ang mga maliliit na magsasaka sa niyugan,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao added.