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Coco farmers wary of pols’ ulterior motive

/ 03:17 AM October 12, 2015

LUCENA CITY—While some farmer groups rejected it, another farmer’s group said it welcomed the passage of the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund (CFTF) bill in the House of Representatives but was wary it was timed to court their votes for the 2016 elections.

Jansepth Geronimo, spokesperson for the Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), said most farmers welcomed the passage of the trust fund bill.

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“But at the same time we’re suspicious of the timing. Was its passage part of a campaign gimmick by politician lawmakers? We hope they are truly sincere in helping the long suffering coconut farmers,” Geronimo said in a phone interview.

On Friday, the House of Representatives voted 194-6 on third and final reading to pass House Bill No. 6135 that creates the CFTF.

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The CFTF will administer the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund that was forcibly collected from farmers during the regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Geronimo said the farmers had long been pushing for the creation of the CFTF from the recovered coconut levy fund, estimated to be around P70 billion, the annual interest earnings of which would be used to bring about meaningful programs for millions of impoverished small coconut farmers and their families.

Coconut farmer groups had long been pushing for the CFTF through rallies, marches and appeals to Congress and Malacañang.

“So we can’t be faulted for our skepticism. But I hope that our suspicion is wrong,” he said.

Geronimo said the real test of the lawmakers true intention behind the passage of the CFTF would be in the bicameral conference between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“We will be watching them. Anti-coconut farmer lawmakers could still water down the true spirit of the CFTF with traitorous killer amendments and political compromises,” Geronimo said.

He said several coconut farmer groups were campaigning for a solid “coco levy vote” that could make or unmake any national candidate.

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“May this serve as a warning (to politicians). What the farmers need is the return of the coconut levy through a genuine CFTF,” Geronimo said. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

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