Solon hopes House passage of coco levy fund bill this year
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is hoping that the House of Representatives will pass this year the coco levy fund bill that President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed in February.
AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, chair of the technical working group (TWG) that would reconcile the 16 coco levy fund bills filed in the chamber, said they would closely coordinate with the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to prevent another presidential veto of the measure.
“I cannot say the timeline pero I do think that we can have this deliberated and approved within the year,” Garin said in an interview after the hearing of the committee on agriculture and food on Monday.
The party-list lawmaker said they might start the TWG meetings during the break, which would start on October 5.
As of July 31, 2019, the cash component of the coco levy assets with Bureau of Treasury was at P76, 363,780,049.43, Asset Management Service Director Eduardo Mariño said during the hearing.
On top of the P76 billion, there are some P300 billion in coco levy assets such as properties and cash with government corporations, Presidential Commission on Good Government acting chairperson Reynold Munsayac said.
The previous 17th Congress had approved the bill, which seeks to create a P10 billion “jumpstart fund” for the exclusive use of coconut farmers and the coconut industry. But Duterte had vetoed the measure, saying it lacked “vital safeguards” to avoid past mistakes. The President also said the “establishment of an effectively perpetual trust fund” may be violative of the Constitution.
The collection of levy from coconut farmers started in 1971 during the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ regime. After the fall of the Marcos regime, various suits were filed to give the fund’s control to coconut farmers.
In 2012, the Supreme Court declared that the coco levy funds are public funds.
The House Makabayan bloc, author of House Bill No. 255, said their bill encapsulates small coconut farmers’ proposal on how the funds should be used for the benefit of small coconut farmers and the entire coconut industry.
“It is meant to effect the return of the control of the coco levy funds to their rightful owners, the millions of small coconut farmers; providing, therefore, a mechanism so that their rights and interest to those funds shall be protected,” the lawmakers said in their explanatory note of HB 255. /kga
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