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Davao coco farmers to join hunger strike on levy

12:12 AM July 04, 2014

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Coconut farmers in Davao Oriental, who account for nearly eight percent or 1.06 billion nuts of the country’s production, said they would join a nationwide hunger strike that coconut farmers are planning in response to the government’s continuing refusal to return so-called coco levy funds to farmers.

Jerry dela Cerna, convenor of the Davao Gulf Coconut Farmers’ Alliance, said farmers from Davao Oriental have committed to march from Governor Generoso town to Malacañang if the farmers’ demands are not heeded until September.

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He said during the hunger strike, coconut farmers would subsist only on coconut water and meat.

The return of the coco levy funds, he said, is just one of 10 demands being made by the farmers.

The farmers, he said, are also demanding the establishment of the Coconut Farmers Development Foundation, composed of eight government representatives to be appointed by the President, and seven members nominated by coconut farmers, to manage coco levy funds and assets.

They also called for a dialog with de facto Agriculture Secretary Francis Pangilinan and Philippine Coconut Authority Chair Romy Arancon on the use of the coco levy and a mechanism for farmers to have a direct line with the President on the use of the funds.

Dela Cerna said farmers also oppose the outright sale of the United Coconut Planters’ Bank, whose controlling interests represent the coco levy fund.

The government, he said, should remove the coco levy fund from the bank before it is sold.

Farmers, he added, are also demanding the return to the Coconut Industry Investment Fund of some P4.4 billion in so-called arbitral fee that were taken from farmers’ P58-billion escrow account. Germelina Lacorte and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao

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