In his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte finally urged the House of Representatives (HOR) and the Senate to pass a bill on the “Creation of the Coconut Farmers’ and Industry Trust Fund,” from the Coconut Levy Fund.
“I think, the Congress should look again and try to sort out how the money can be (best) utilized. I once again urge both houses of the Congress to pass a version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund,” said President Duterte.
A year ago, coconut farmers and stakeholders came up with a unified and harmonized position on the utilization and management of the Coconut Levy Fund during the First National Coconut Summit, organized by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
This is after President Duterte vetoed a bill called “Coconut Levy Bill,” commenting that with “a conclusion that it may have violated the Constitution and lacked vital safeguards to avoid the repetition of the painful mistakes in the past.”
The Coco Levy Fund is a PhP100 Billion trust fund from overtaxing the coconut farmers during the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos.
The stakeholders came up with a resolution, which was adapted during the National Coconut Summit, that recommended the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, Committee on Agriculture and Food of the Senate of the Philippines, and HOR, the inclusion of the Harmonized Position of the Coconut Stakeholders in the Creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund.
“With the President’s pronouncement, coconut farmers and stakeholders are optimistic that the bill will include measures that will truly benefit the farmers. PCAF will support our stakeholders by providing them a venue for consultations and dialogues in the process of passing the bill,” said PCAF Acting Exec. Dir. Liza Battad.
In a virtual presser on July 28, Agriculture Secretary William Dar pointed out that the Trust Fund will be used in four major areas. These include the productivity enhancement projects, social protection program, empowering the coconut farmer’s cooperatives towards clustering and agribusiness, and infrastructure development.
“Tulungan natin ang ating mga magsasaka (magniniyog) para hindi mawala ang pera dahil bilyon yan,” the President also stressed.
PCAF is an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture which facilitates broad-based participatory mechanism and process in the agriculture and fisheries sector. ###JC