Coco farmers ask Duterte to fulfill his promise
LUCENA CITY—Only President Duterte’s action certifying coconut levy-related measures in Congress as urgent and that of his political allies would pave the way for the release of funds for coconut farmers in the country, a leader of a farmers’ group said.
Danny Carranza, secretary general of Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), said once a law authorizing the use of the coconut levy fund is enacted, the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court on its use will become moot.
“It is quite disappointing that the TRO is now being used to justify the inaction of the current administration,” he said.
“Is the just return of coco levy fund to coconut farmers under this administration already dead through misconstrued technicality?” he added.
The coconut levy is a tax collected during the Marcos dictatorship on the produce of coconut farmers between 1972 and 1982, supposedly to develop the coconut industry.
Carranza has called on Mr. Duterte and his allies in the Senate and House of Representatives to work on the approval of several coconut levy-related bills that would create a trust fund benefiting about 3.5 million coconut farmers in the country.
Mr. Duterte, during a campaign sortie in Catanauan town in Quezon province early this year, had promised farmers that the funds would be distributed to coconut farmers within 100 days of his presidency.
Mr. Duterte is supporting a measure to use P74.3 billion in coconut levy funds for the benefit of coconut farmers and their families, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said earlier.
Dominguez said the fund’s release required the passage of a law should the Supreme Court TRO be lifted.
On March 18, former President Aquino signed Executive Order No. 179 and EO 180.
EO 179 governs the disposition and privatization of recovered coco levy-funded assets while EO 180 provides guidelines for the use of P74.3 billion recovered by the government from San Miguel Corp.
The EOs were later challenged by the Coconut Farmers’ Organizations of the Philippines in the Supreme Court. On June 30, the high court issued the TRO against the implementation of EOs 179 and 180.
Joey Faustino, executive director of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement (COIR), said the EOs were meant to clear the way for the use of the accumulated annual interest from the recovered fund, while waiting for a law that would govern the use of the funds.
“There should be a legislative measure to create a trust fund from the recovered coco levy fund,” he said.
“But it takes more than the certification of the bill as urgent. President Duterte promised to force the issue in Congress. He should do it now,” he said. —DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
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