Tañada questions veto of bill strengthening Philippine Coconut Authority
MANILA, Philippines — Former Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada questioned the move to veto a bill which would have strengthened the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
Tañada remarked during a radio interview on Sunday that President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision was “surprising,” especially since part of his campaign promise was the release of coco levy funds to coconut farmers.
Signing into law the consolidated versions of Senate Bill No. 1976 and House Bill No. 8852 would have ensured that the farmers would be supported.
“Nagulat nga po tayo sa naging desisyon ng ating Pangulo sa pag-veto nitong bill. [Ang coco levy fund] ay parating nagiging priority legislation ng mga pangulo,” the former lawmaker, who is running for senator in the 2019 midterm elections, said.
“At ito’y binanggit ng ating Pangulo noong unang SONA (State of the Nation Address) po niya, na talagang kailangan tulungan ang ating coconut farmers,” he added.
According to Tañada, the government is overly concerned with production while it fails to look at the capacity of farmers to purchase items needed for coconut farming.
“Ang parating iniisip po ng ating gobyerno at ng ating mga opisyal sa Department of Agriculture, production and harvest. Hindi nila tinitingnan ang income ng farmers,” he claimed.
“Kung sinasabi nila, ‘Umunlad ba ang kabuhayan ng mga magsasaka?’ Kausapin mo ang mga magsasaka, sasabihin nila hindi. Break even lang. So ano iyong rason kung bakit, at iyon ang kailangang bigyan natin ng pansin,” he explained.
After the Senate ratified the 2019 budget last Friday, it was revealed through a message that the President has vetoed the bill, which would have given coconut farmers a greater representation in the PCA.
This would have been significant for coconut farmers, as the PCA is directed to manage the coco levy funds.
Malacañang reasoned out that the veto was meant to prevent corruption with the PCA. After the veto, it will be returned to Congress for further deliberations.
Tañada said that while he is said with the President’s decision, he remains hopeful that the coco levy funds — tax forcefully collected from coconut farmers during the reign of late dictator former President Ferdinand Marcos and used to fund businesses of his cronies — will be fully for the benefit of farmers.
“Itong bicameral conference committee report, nakaayos na … Tapos puno’t dulo, wala pa ring nangyayari. Iyon ang nakakalungkot dito,” Tañada said.
“Nakakalungkot nga itong proseso sa paggawa ng batas tungkol dito, at ito rin ay masasabi po natin na watered down na. Pero tuloy pa rin, sige, basta magamit natin para matulungan ang ating industriya,” he said.
In 2012, the Supreme Court decided that the coco levy funds should be for the use of coconut farmers.
At least 24 percent of shares of the San Miguel Corporation — an empire strengthened by Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco using the funds — have been declared part of government property. /je
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