Senate approves coco levy trust fund bill
Voting 19-1, the Senate approved on Monday a bill that would create the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund.
Only Senator Risa Hontivero voted against Senate Bill No 1233.
Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, former chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, voted yes “with reservations,” citing the amendments made last week in the original proposal.
Pangilinan explained that under the original bill, a Trust Fund would be created separate from the funds of the national government.
The proposed Trust Committee, he said, was also supposed to be distinct and separate from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
But the senator lamented that, “More than a year after we submitted SBN 1233, we are now faced with an amended version that we believe is far from what we expected.”
“We had hoped that only minor changes would be imposed on our version. But unfortunately, the wish of the majority in the Senate, expressed and formalized through a vote, has to be respected,” he said.
As amended last Monday, Pangilinan pointed out that the proposed trust fund will be included in the National Expenditure Program and appropriated through the General Appropriations Act.
“The negative consequences of such a process is that, which I continue to hope would not happen, the funds will be appropriated for programs and projects that may not be identified in the Coconut Farmers and Industry Plan,” he said.
“Mr. President, sad to say, such prescription in SBN 1233 removes the essence of a Trust Fund. This, I believe, veers away from the Supreme Court rulings on the coconut levy funds.”
Instead of a Trust Committee, the PCA Board, based on the approved measure, would be reconstituted.
Despite the amendments, Pangilinan remained hopeful that the congressional bicameral committee would come out with a “true Trust Fund that is special in nature, and outside the appropriation process.”
Like Pangilinan, Hontiveros also strongly opposed the said amendments, saying that the coco levy fund is a special fund and should not be included as part of the general fund while the proposed Trust Committee was considered the “heart” of the bill.
“Ang panukalang ito ay resulta ng napakaraming konsultasyon sa mga local at national assemblies ng mga coconut farmers. Nagkaroon pa ng 1,750 kilometrong martsa mula Davao hanggang Manila noong 2014 kasabay ng mga konsultasyong ito. Pero binalewala lang natin ito,” she said.
“Ang Coco Levy Act na sana ang magtatama sa historical injustice na dinanas ng ating mga magniniyog. Sa paggiit ng Senado sa paraan ng pamamahala sa pondong ito at pagbalewala sa panukala mismo ng magniniyog, Mr. President, my dear colleagues, muli lang natin silang ninakawan,” Hontiveros said. /je
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