Farmers launch coco levy info drive
LUCENA City—Quezon farmers on Friday launched an information campaign on the coconut levy fund by putting up hundreds of streamers along the Maharlika Highway to address the public apathy in the struggle to recover the multibillion-peso fund.
Oscar Santos, 82, former Quezon congressman and administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority during the time of the late President Corazon Aquino, said “it’s sad to admit it but most people and even government officials are not fully aware of the importance of returning the levy to the farmers.”
Janzepth Geronimo, secretary of the Coalition of Coconut Farmers of Quezon (CocoFarm-Quezon), said local peasant groups, religious and local government officials initiated the printing of tarpaulin streamers displayed in strategic areas along Maharlika Highway.
He said the tarpaulin, which reads “Coco levy fund, Para sa magniniyog, Hindi para sa iilan.” (coco levy fund for the coconut farmers, not for a few), aims to ignite public interest on the farmers’ struggle.
Geronimo said the farmers groups will also mass produce pamphlets, manifestos and other educational materials to be distributed to different villages, schools and public places.
Quezon is believed to be the biggest contributor to the multibillion-peso fund which was forcibly collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos regime.
Around 500 coconut farmer leaders from different parts of Quezon gathered at the Perez Park at the provincial capitol grounds to kick off the campaign.
Bishop Buenaventura Famadico of the Diocese of Gumaca stressed God’s blessing should not be concentrated on the influential few.
In his homily during the Mass, Famadico called on the farmers to pray and ask for God’s help to enlighten the Supreme Court justices who recently ruled that businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, uncle of President Aquino, didn’t use the funds to acquire his huge block of shares in San Miguel Corp.
During the Mass, the farmers offered coconut seedlings and other farm produce as symbol of their contribution to the country’s welfare.
Adel Arandela, chairman of Niugan, a coconut farmer’s organization in Quezon, showed an old levy receipt as proof that his late father was one of the victims of the coconut fund scam.
He said that before his father died a few years ago, he left them a wooden box full of coconut levy receipts.
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