Use of coconut levy fund up to farmers, says Villar
LUCENA CITY—Coconut farmers will decide on how to use the P105-billion coconut levy fund that will be released by the government soon, Sen. Cynthia Villar said here this week.
Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said the congressional bicameral conference committee had changed the composition of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), which would be tasked to manage the fund based on the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act (or the coco levy trust fund bill).
“Coconut farmers will be the majority in the reconstituted PCA. It’s up to them if they will be still fooled,” she said, allaying fears of coconut farmers that they would be left out in the management of the fund.
Villar, on Tuesday, was guest in the annual assembly of farmers in Quezon, one of the major coconut-producing provinces in the country.
Improving farmers’ lives
According to Villar, the reconstituted PCA board of directors will be composed of four representatives from the government, one from the private sector in the coconut industry and six coconut farmers (two each from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao).
She said once President Duterte signs the law, every centavo of the coconut levy fund would be used to improve the lives of farmers.
“After the signing of the law by President Duterte, the government will allocate a P5-billion budget annually for the benefit of coconut farmers,” she said. The allocation will be given for 25 years, or until the fund has been depleted.
Villar said this was how the annual P5-billion budget would be disbursed: P1.5 billion – shared facilities program for different farmers’ associations for processing and value adding of coconut products; P1.5 billion – improvement of coconut farms to encourage competitiveness and profitability; P750 million – educational scholarship program for children of coconut farmers; P500 million – medical assistance and health benefits; and P750 million – empowerment of coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives.
She said Congress had allotted P10 billion from the annual national budget for the coconut farmers. Villar said that of this amount, P2 billion would be used for farm-to-market roads; P2 billion for planting, replanting and establishing nurseries; P2 billion for processing and value adding; P1 billion for intercropping; P1 billion for research and development, disease control and eradication; P1 billion for credit line; P500 million for fertilization; and P500 million for new products.
The Sandiganbayan, in a resolution early this month, ordered the enforcement of the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that said P83 billion worth of assets acquired through the use of the coconut levy fund belonged to coconut farmers.
Gov. David Suarez said coconut farmers in Quezon had been waiting for the release of the coconut levy fund.
Farmers from Quezon are believed to be the biggest contributors to the coco levy fund collected during the administration of strongman Ferdinand Marcos. —DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
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