Amid growing opposition against the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund (Coco Levy Act), which will pave the way for the release of the P100-billion coco levy fund, Agriculture Secretary William Dar has made an appeal to coconut farmers to give the law a chance.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (Photo credit: https://www.da.gov.ph/)

This was Dar’s reaction to coconut farmers’ call for President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the proposed Coco Levy Act if ever it makes it through the bicameral process without addressing the concerns of the farmers on the unfavorable provisions of the House and Senate versions of the bill.

“My view is that maybe we should give it a chance. Let the two versions of the law be harmonized [in bicameral] and let the law be implemented properly,” Dar said.

He also said that the immediate passage of the Coco Levy Act will help revive the country’s coconut industry, which is now “a sleeping giant”.

It was just earlier this week when House Bill 8136 was passed on third and final reading, while the Senate version of the law, Senate Bill 1396, was passed in October.

Joey Faustino, leader of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement, said that it turns out that HB 8136

“mirrors the atrocious details of SB 1396” such as the allocation of portions of coco levy fund to government agencies, some of which do not even have any participation at all in the industry.

“8136 is also silent on the obligation of the state to re-convey the monies in full, it merely says P5 billion on the first year. It is promoted by the Speaker to benefit small farmers but the provision on the definition of a farmer deliberately missed out the five-hectare limit. It is even worse than that of the senate. It’s simply a hoax and is bound to benefit only the government,” he added.

Pambansang Kilusan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) Chairman Eduardo Mora then said that if President Rodrigo Duterte will not intervene before the law gets through the bicameral, where both houses of Congress will consolidate two versions of Coco Levy Act, farmers’ last hope would be a veto.

“Another veto will be President Duterte’s best Christmas gift for us. Otherwise, the coco levy fund will just run out after being exhausted by different government agencies,” he further said.

On Friday, Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) likewise expressed serious misgivings on several provisions of the Coco Levy Act.

FFF Board Chairman and former Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Q. Montemayor said that both SB 1396 and HB 8136 lack a coherent over-all framework aimed at the strategic redirection and sustainable development of the coconut industry, principally for the benefit of the country’s 3.5 million coconut farmers and farm workers.  

“The absence of a general strategy and its resultant priority activities is evidenced by both Chambers’ simplistic division of the Trust Fund – amounting to at least P5 billion yearly – into ten equal parts, each corresponding to a program by a specified government agency,” he said.

Montemayor also lamented the absence of representation for small coconut farmers, who were the source of the levy collections, in the Management Committee tasked with setting the investment policy for the Trust Fund, estimated to be P100 billion.

He pointed out that, while coconut planting/replanting, fertilization and intercropping are already among the regularly funded programs of the national government, a major portion of the Trust Fund will be tapped for the same.

“In effect, coconut farmers will now be made to finance these programs themselves, inasmuch as the coconut levies were collected from them in the first place”, he stated.

Montemayor further questioned why government members in the restructured board of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) should be involved in selecting the three coconut farmers’ representatives in the same board.

“What is this? A mini-Commission on Appointments within the PCA,” he asked.  

The coco levy fund is the taxes collected from coconut farmers by the Marcos administration and its cronies from 1972 to 1981.  


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://mb.com.ph/2020/12/19/dar-appeals-to-farmers-to-give-proposed-coco-levy-act-a-chance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dar-appeals-to-farmers-to-give-proposed-coco-levy-act-a-chance)