Coco tillers ask Aquino: What happened to levy fund? | Inquirer News
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Coco tillers ask Aquino: What happened to levy fund?

/ 05:28 AM November 05, 2013

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—A Quezon-based nongovernment organization has asked President Aquino to make a public accounting of the coco levy fund, saying that the issue appeared to have been buried by the series of scams involving public funds.

“Where is the coconut levy fund? What happened to our money?” asked Jansepth Geronimo, campaign officer of the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services (Quardds) and secretary general of the Coalition of Coconut Farmers of Quezon (Coco-Farm-Quezon).

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“No one among our legislators or government agencies concerned (has been) talking about the fund and the latest development about it. The farmers are at a loss,” said Geronimo, adding that the issue seemed to have been forgotten amid the news reports on the pork barrel scam.

Aquino should make a public accounting of the fund “to pacify the restive Quezon farmers,” the Quardds official said.

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Geronimo said that more than 500 farmer-beneficiaries of the agrarian reform program in the province faced the prospect of losing their land with the threat of revocation of their certificate of land ownership awards (CLAO) after some landowners disputed their classification as agricultural land.

The President should release the coco levy fund to the coconut farmers “in the spirit of the coming Christmas season… and to ease their suffering,” Geronimo said.

Coconut farmers from Quezon were believed to be the biggest contributors to the coconut levy fund, which was imposed by the Marcos regime from 1973 to 1982.

In July this year, the Supreme Court ruled with finality that the government owned the shares of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. in United Coconut Planter’s Bank (UCPB), which became the depository of the coco levy funds. The high court also ruled that the fund should be used for the benefit of the coconut farmers.

Militant groups in the industry are protesting a move by the Aquino administration to transfer the money to the general appropriation fund to finance antipoverty programs.

According to these groups, the money should be used specifically for the coconut farmers who paid the levy, and that any antipoverty measure should come out of the national budget.—Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Coco Levy Fund, Farmers, Jansepth Geronimo, Philippines, public accounting
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