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Ex-solon cautions against rushing ‘bad’ coco levy fund law

Former Quezon Representative Erin Tañada, who has been advocating for the release of the P100-billion Coco Levy Act fund, said if lawmakers will only pass a “bad law” then farmers would rather not see the release of the coco levy fund at all.

“We need to prioritize the small coconut farmers. If this will not happen with the proposed laws, then there’s no reason to rush into passing this law. If the lawmakers will only come up with a bad law, then there’s no need to rush. This will be unacceptable to coconut farmers anyway,” Tañada said in a virtual forum on Monday.

Tañada is particularly referring to the provision of Coco Levy Act that would allow large coconut plantation owners to also benefit from the coco levy fund, which came from the taxes imposed on coconut farmers by the Marcos administration and its cronies from 1972 to 1981.

According to him, the Philippine government should limit the coco levy beneficiaries only to coconut farmers owning 5 hectares and below because it was the small coconut farmers who were most victimized by the so-called coco levy fund scam.

Another provision in the Coco Levy Act that Tañada is wary about is the composition Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board as the fund is going to be managed by PCA.

“Majority of the PCA Board should be composed of coconut farmers,” Tañada said. “If this wouldn’t be the case, then there’s no need to hurry passing such law.”

In the same briefing, AAMBIS-OWA Partylist Representative Sharon Garin, who is the house chairperson of Technical Working Group on Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, agreed with Tañada’s point but also admitted that she has no choice but to adhere to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to finally pass the proposed law. 

“Erin really has a good point. Do we really have to rush it if this isn’t what you [coconut farmers] want?” Garin said.

“Unfortunately, we really have to pass this. There have been a lot of changes in the proposed law. I just don’t know if you will like it or not. I think you should continue to lobby for what you want. With all the decades that the farmers have been waiting, farmers deserve a good bill,” she added. 

In a separate virtual briefing on Monday, Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said plenary discussions on the revised Senate version of Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act or the Coco Levy Act has already started.

To recall, the proposed bill was vetoed by Duterte last year, saying it lacked safeguards.

“We already included the inputs of the executive branch of the government,” Villar said. “Maybe this time, this will no longer be vetoed.”

Once the Coco Levy Act is signed into law, the Bureau of Treasury shall “immediately” earmark P5 billion to the coco levy trust fund and another P5 billion shall be initially allocated to the PCA.

The trust fund is supposed to have a lifespan of 99 years.

“The money will pour into PCA,” Villar said adding, “The budget for coconut farmers will double.”

Two weeks ago, Pambansang Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) Chairman Ed Mora said he fears that justice may no longer be served for the real victims of coco levy fund scam, the same points that Tañada had brought up.

According to him, the coco levy fund should not be used to develop the entire coconut industry, but to particularly help small coconut farmers.

“Congress and Senate want the fund to be used for the development of the entire coconut industry. Why? Only small coconut farmers should benefit from this because the money came from them. If we give this to the industry, there are a lot of coconut farmers who are billionaire coconut plant owners who will benefit from this. In fact, they will be the first ones to benefit from this because they are the owners of the large coconut plantations,” Mora earlier said.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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