Key coconut stakeholders adopted a resolution appealing to the Congressional Bicameral Committee to recast House Bill (HB) 5745: “An Act Establishing the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund and Providing for its Management and Utilization” and Senate Bill (SB) 1233: “An Act Creating the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, Providing for its Management and Utilization, and for Other Purposes.
In a consultation conducted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), in coordination with the Department of Agriculture – Department Legislative Liaison Office (DA-DLLO), the stakeholders were in a consensus that the passed Senate and House bills need to be re-formed as they do not reflect the interests of the coconut industry
The undertaking gathered the key industry players on May 21, 2018 at the Apacible Conference Room in Quezon City to solicit comments and recommendations, in preparation for the bicameral conference on the said bills.
The event was presided by Romeo Royandoyan of Centro Saka, Inc. and National Sectoral and Strategic Concerns Committee – Committee on Food Staples (NSSCCs-CFS) Vice Chairperson.
In the discussion, it was recalled that the sequestered coconut levy funds, which includes the Php70 billion worth of San Miguel Corporation shares, and assets were declared by the Supreme Court (SC) on January 4, 2012 as owned by the government to be used only for the development of the coconut industry.
The SC also promulgated on April 10, 2012 that the coconut levy funds belong to the government and are subject to its administration and disposition.
Relative to this, the Senate came up with SB 1233 while the House of Representatives, with HB 5745. Both bills included provisions to privatize the coconut levy assets which are stated under Section 13 of SB 1233 and Section 22 of HB 5745.
Rather than privatize these assets, Efren Villaseñor of the Confederation of Coffee Farmers Organizations of the Philippines (CCFOP) and Charlie Avila of Philippine Association of Small Coconut Farmers’ Organization (PASCFO) suggested that a government-owned and controlled corporation should be created to handle the funds and assets.
Moreover, the Senate version indicate that the fund be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) wherein annual utilization of the fund will be subjected to the approval of the Congress.
Jhun Pascua of Kilusan para sa Ugnayan ng mga Samahang Magniniyog opposed and mentioned that the utilization of funds must not involve the Congress, because it is owned and only be used by the coconut farmers. “
Likewise, it was proposed that the coconut levy funds should be used immediately for the restoration and protection of the coconut farms. – LC