House set to pass coco levy trust fund bill
MANILA, Philippines — Before it goes on a holiday break this week, the House of Representatives will pass on third and final reading the bill creating the coconut levy trust fund as a “fitting Christmas gift for more than 3 million coconut farmers.”
“The establishment of the trust fund will ensure that the recovered coco levy funds will be used for the development of the coconut industry and to uplift the lives of coco farmers who are among the poorest in the country,” Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said in a statement on Sunday.
A similar bill was approved in the Senate on third and final reading on Oct. 5.
In 2019, President Duterte vetoed a coco levy bill that pushed for the creation of a P100-billion trust fund for coconut farmers, citing its lack of “vital safeguards” that could “disproportionately benefit wealthy coconut farm owners.”
But in his State of the Nation Address in July, he again called on Congress to pass such a measure.
On Dec. 9, lawmakers approved on second reading House Bill No. 8136, or the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act. The new bill states that the trust fund will be maintained for 99 years under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan to be formulated by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
During the plenary debates, however, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said farmers and the coconut industry should have more representatives in the formulation of policies in the PCA board.
Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, who sponsored the new bill, said the previous one was vetoed by the President in 2019 because it “allows for private individuals to dominate the membership of the PCA board and might be given too much influence for the disbursement of public funds.” INQ
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