House OKs refiled coco levy fund bill on 2nd reading
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a refiled bill seeking to create the coco levy fund, a trust fund worth billions of pesos for coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier vetoed the original measure which Congress had approved, saying it lacked “vital safeguards” to avoid past mistakes and “may be violative of the Constitution.” The previous versions were Senate Bill No. 1233 and House Bill No. 5745.
The refiled coco levy fund bill, House Bill No. 9197, was authored by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Anac-Ip Rep. Jose Panganiban among others. It seeks to create a P10 billion “jumpstart fund” to be used exclusively for the benefit of coconut farmers and the coconut industry.
Farmer’s sector representation
During the period of amendments, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao asserted that farmers should have more seats in the trust fund committee, stressing that the body should not be “private sector-dominated.” Panganiban turned down his proposal.
“This representation cannot accept the provision that only allows three representatives from the farmer’s sector, one from Luzon, one from Visayas and one from Mindanao,” Casilao said.
“We should at least give them the voice, give them the necessary representation in a committee that will deliberate the future of this fund,” he added.
Panganiban said the Bureau of Treasury had assured that the coconut levy fund amounting to P76 billion where the trust fund would be sourced “remains intact.”
The coconut levy fund, according to the bill, refers to amounts generated from levies, taxes, charges, and other fees exacted or imposed in connection to the sale of copra or its equivalent product, and collected for the most part from coconut farmers, planters and any end users of copra or similar product.
In a letter sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Arroyo said the approval of the bill is “main priority for our last three weeks’ work” in the House. The Pampanga lawmaker said she hopes it would “conform more to the policy direction of the Executive.”
Congress has barely three weeks to pass the proposed law before the 17th Congress adjourns sine die on June 8. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
Read HB 9197 here:
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