Duterte vow to release coco levy fund sounds like broken record – farmers group
LUCENA CITY –– For national farmers group Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), President Duterte’s renewed promise to return the multi-billion peso coconut levy fund to the farmers sounded like a broken record.
The group said the president’s repeated declaration on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday to use the coconut levy for the benefit of small coconut farmers and the development of the industry “had been his promise long ago.”
“It was his promise during the campaign period. His fifth SONA makes it sound like a repetitive statement that does not conclude anything,” Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Katarungan, said in a phone interview Wednesday.
During the presidential campaign trail in 2016, Duterte, then Davao City mayor, had promised in Catanauan, Quezon that the funds would be distributed to coconut farmers within 100 days of his presidency.
The fund, now with the government, was estimated to be around P100 billion.
But despite the failed promise, the coconut farmers still hope that Mr. Duterte would make good his words this time.
“We don’t want him to fail on his promise to return the coco levy to its true owners, the small coconut farmers,” Geronimo said.
He said President Duterte’s remaining two years in office would be a test of his capacity to mobilize Congress on pro-poor issues.
Katarungan has been asking the Duterte administration to tap the coconut levy fund to help poor coconut farmers cope with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
To address the state cash shortage problem, Geronimo urged the government to consider using “a small portion of coconut levy funds” in financing the food production of coconut farmers and in delivering relief goods to coconut farming communities.
In his SONA, President Duterte asked Congress to create the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund to use the money collected by the government to benefit farmers.
But last year, Mr. Duterte vetoed the measure seeking to create a P100-billion trust fund for coconut farmers.
The bill had to go through the bicameral conference committee twice as the Palace raised issues with the composition of the council that would manage the fund and the lack of sunset provisions for the funding for coconut farmers.
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