Not giving up: House approves refiled coco levy fund bill
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is not giving up on the coco levy fund bill as the chamber passed it on third and final reading Monday, more than three months after President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the measure.
The chamber approved House Bill No. 9197, which seeks to create a P10 billion “jumpstart fund” for the exclusive use of coconut farmers and the coconut industry, with 159 votes in favor, five against, and zero abstention. The proposed law was approved on second reading last May 22.
According to the bill, the coco levy trust fund would be governed by a committee under the Office of the President and composed of the Department of Agriculture, other agencies, three representatives from farmer’s organizations, and two from the coconut industry sector.
During the period of amendments, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao criticized that farmers should have more seats in the trust fund committee, stressing that the body should not be “private sector-dominated.”
President Rodrigo Duterte in February vetoed the original proposed measure that Congress had approved, saying it lacked “vital safeguards” to avoid past mistakes and “may be violative of the Constitution.”
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was among the principal authors of the bill, had vowed to fast-track the passage of the measure before 17th Congress adjourns on June 8.
In a statement issued Monday, Casilao called the bill “worse than the earlier version as it is more undemocratic.” He also urged coconut farmers in the country to protest against the measure and push for the pro-farmer House Bill No. 557 or the Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Fund.
“This is worse than the earlier version, the number of farmer representatives at the trust committee, was slashed from nine to three. The real owners are now overshadowed by bureaucrat capitalists and landlords, led by the agriculture secretary, being the chairperson,” Casilao lamented.
“This is simply the money of the poor farmers, snatched by the government and then by lip-service to be used to develop the industry where they belong as if there was a genuine agricultural program in the country,” he added. (Editor: Katherine G. Adraneda)
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