New PCA chief tells farmers P75-b safe in his office
LUCENA CITY—The new head of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), described by farmers as an ally, sought to assure detractors that at least P75 billion in coconut levy funds that farmers want to be returned to them would be safe in the hands of the PCA.
“I share their belief that the PCA, during the Marcos dictatorship, had connived to plunder and mismanage the coco levy fund,” said Avelino Andal, new administrator of the PCA.
“I will be different under my watch,” he said.
“I am with them,” he added, referring to farmers demanding a return of the coconut levy funds or their use to uplift the condition of farmers. Andal was an activist during martial law.
Andal made the statement after Antonio Flores, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general, asked the new PCA chief to keep his hands off from the coconut levy funds. Flores said the PCA had been instrumental in the forced collection of the levy from coconut growers during martial law.
“The PCA deliberately allowed Marcos cronies to squander and plunder the fund exacted from coco farmers,” said Flores in a statement on Friday.
He said allowing the PCA to solely manage the coco levy fund “would be a grand betrayal” of coconut farmers.
Danny Carranza, secretary general of the Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), also opposed Andal’s plan on the coco levy fund.
“It is at the very least profoundly disappointing and lacks moral and historical sense,” Carranza said in a statement.
Katarungan had praised the appointment of Andal, calling the new PCA chief a “trusted ally.”
Andal had told reporters at a press conference in Lucena City that the coconut levy fund would be managed by the PCA.
“Nothing else, and nobody else, but the PCA,” Andal said. He said the PCA has the mandate to supervise the funds as part of its job to oversee the coconut industry.
He expressed opposition to a bill that would create a Coco Levy Trust Fund agency separate from the PCA, saying he did not feel comfortable with it. The bill, filed at the Senate, had been endorsed by 16 senators.
It proposed to use the interest that the fund would earn annually on programs for coconut farmers.
An 11-man committee would be formed, to be headed by the secretaries of finance and agriculture, with majority of members composed of coconut farmers.
Carranza expressed support for the bill.
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