PCA chief wants to keep coco funds
LUCENA CITY—The coconut levy fund should stay with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) so this could be properly administered and tapped to help farmers, PCA Administrator Avelino Andal has said.
“If the coconut levy fund will be released, it should be under the administration of the PCA. Nothing else, and nobody else, but the PCA,” Andal said Monday.
“I’m not comfortable that a law will be passed creating a similar, parallel agency with the PCA,” he said, adding that the PCA was specifically mandated by law to supervise the industry.
Earlier, Andal requested the immediate release of at least P4-billion worth of interest from the coconut levy fund to start the rehabilitation of the coconut industry.
The coconut levy is a tax collected from coconut farmers from 1972 to 1982, during the administration of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, to develop the coconut industry.
The fund and its assets were sequestered by the government after Marcos was ousted by a citizen revolt in 1986.
The Supreme Court, in 2012, ruled the levy as public fund and should be used by the government for the benefit of coconut farmers and to develop the coconut industry.
But Antonio Flores, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas secretary general, said the PCA “has no legal and moral authority to use the small coconut farmers’ money.”
“In fact, the PCA has been instrumental in the forced collection and plunder of the coco levy during the Marcos dictatorship,” Flores said.
Last month, Sen. Francis Pangilinan brought out the Senate committee report consolidating five proposed bills seeking to setup a Coco Levy Trust Fund for the benefit of the country’s coconut farmers. This would pave the way for the release of P75 billion in coconut levy funds long trapped in litigation.
Under Senate Bill No. 1233, the coco levy funds would be used to develop the coconut industry and turn the amount into a perpetual trust fund with only its annual interest used for the benefit of 3.5 million coconut farmers, as ordered by the Supreme Court.
It would also create a trust fund committee composed of 11 members headed by the secretaries of finance and agriculture, with majority of membership composed of coconut farmers.
The Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) also called for a nationwide farmers consultation on the use of the coco levy fund.
“We have said once and again the need for this administration, through the PCA, to hold a coconut farmers and industry summit, so a comprehensive development program will be formulated where coconut farmers will have a major role in the revitalization of the coconut industry,” said Danny Carranza, Katarungan secretary general, in a phone interview.
“Without consulting farmers, the PCA may end up repeating the same programs over and over again,” Carranza said.
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