JULY 25, 2018-OVER P75-B COCO LEVY FUND STILL OUT OF FARMERS’ REACH-COIR
MANILA, Philippines — Millions of Filipino coconut farmers have been waiting for the return of coco levy funds that have been denied from them for almost four decades now. This was collected from the coconut farmers during martial law amounting to 9.7 billion pesos from 1973 to 1982.Two-point-seven billion pesos (P2.7 billion) from the fund was reportedly used in the establishment of the United Coconut Planters Bank and oil mills. Some were invested in San Miguel Corporation. Much of the funds allegedly went into the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. On Monday’s (July 23) State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned anew the establishment of a trust fund to unlock the coco levy fund for the benefit of the small farmers. “Our farmers, especially our coconut farmers, form a significant part of the basic sectors of society. It is from the toil of their hands that we put food on the table. It is my hope that we finally see this through. I urge you Congress to convene the [bicameral] conference committee and pass at the soonest possible time the bill establishing the coconut farmers’ trust fund. I pray that you will do it,” said the President. Coconut Industry Reform Movement (COIR) said that only P2.7 billion of the total amount invested may be recovered. “This invested amount of P2.7 billion had grown to around P200 billion already,” said COIR spokesperson Joey Faustino. Of the P200 billion since 2012, the only part recovered were shares from San Miguel Corporation, United Coconut Planters Bank, CIIF Oil Mills Group of Companies amounting to P75 million. The group previously filed a bill in the 16th Congress seeking the establishment of a trust fund which will be directly released to small coconut farmers. “The cash now is worth P75 billion, plus yung shares ng mga kompanya na narecover ay gawin ng isang trust fund,” said the spokesperson. The trust fund is dedicated for livelihood projects, social protection, and empowering farmers’ association and for lending additional capital for farmers to purchase new equipment. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that a block of shares from San Miguel, UCPB and Oil Mills Group of Companies be given to coconut farmers; however, this has yet to materialize. “Sa ngayon hindi magalaw ng pamahalaan ang resources na ito at magamit because the Supreme Court required a legislation to guide utilization”, said Faustino. The group hopes that Duterte’s mention of the coco levy fund in his third SONA will prompt the lawmakers to pass a bill establishing the coconut farmers’ trust fund. The bicameral panel on coco levy fund, meanwhile, plans to meet next week to tackle the said bill.