Not all of us want cash, says coco tillers group
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Not all farmers favor the direct distribution of the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund in cash.
A national farmers’ group, Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan (Katarungan), on Saturday opposed the return of the fund to coconut farmers in the form of cash as proposed by the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
Danny Carranza, Katarungan secretary general, said the KMP proposal would be difficult to implement.
“How would the government distinguish the recipients? Most of the coconut farmers who contributed to the fund are now dead. And most coconut farmers, particularly those in remote areas, are not organized,” Carranza said.
He said the Duterte administration should help organize coconut farmers to ensure their active participation.
He urged President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to exert all efforts and to influence his allies in Congress to pass a law creating a Coconut Farmers Trust Fund. The interest from the fund would be used for the rehabilitation and development of the coconut industry.
Carranza said any resolution of the coconut levy issue should also involve other problems confronting farmers like the lack of land to till which could only be solved through a real agrarian reform program.
“That P20,000 cash share of every coconut farmer in the country will not even create a dent to uplift their sorry condition,” Carranza said, referring to the estimated amount that each farmer would get should the direct cash aid be approved.
Duterte has directed his legal team to begin steps for the release of the P100-billion coconut levy fund to the farmers.
The coco levy fund, a tax imposed between 1973 and 1982 during the regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was expected to benefit more than 20 million coconut farmers and their families from some 21,000 coconut-producing villages across the country.
With his promise to return the fund to the farmers, different local farmer groups in Quezon province have been preparing to celebrate Duterte’s inauguration on June 30. Coconut farmers from Quezon were believed to be the biggest contributors to the coco levy fund.
Jansept Geronimo, Katarungan spokesperson, said the farmers would offer Mass followed by a simple feast to thank President Duterte for his sincere concern for their plight.
Geronimo said that after their 122-kilometer protest march from Sariaya, Quezon, to Manila in April, Duterte dispatched Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano, then his running mate, to meet with them in Lucena City and listen to their concerns.
Geronimo said the farmers fully support Duterte’s plans but a nationwide consultation with legitimate farmer groups was still needed for the president-elect to learn the real issues.
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