MANILA — The 40-year struggle over the estimated P73-billion coco levy fund may soon come to an end as Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Wednesday announced that the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act of 2016 (popularly known as the coco levy bill) is scheduled for its first public hearing on September 1.
Pangilinan, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, is optimistic that the issue of the coco levy will finally be given priority after the previous Congress failed to pass the bill.
“We have high hopes for the passage of this measure within the 17th Congress, and we will do everything in our power to expedite its passage. We have to recognize the urgency of the situation – our farmers have waited long enough,” Pangilinan said.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the coco levy fund is public fund, and awarded it to the government to use it to develop the coconut industry. Former President Benigno Aquino III issued two executive orders in March 2015 for its immediate inventory and transfer to the government for the Integrated Coconut Industry Roadmap and the Roadmap for the Coco Levy, and certified the bill as urgent.
The House of Representatives passed the measure on third reading last October 2015, while the Senate went only as far as period of amendments. Pangilinan, who helped craft the bill during his stint as Cabinet Secretary, has repeatedly called for its passage during the previous Congress.
“This time, we will personally make sure it pushes through. Through this measure, there will be an accounting and inventory of the coco levy assets that will be converted into a perpetual trust fund that will be used for the coconut industry and its development. This way, we will be able to bolster the income of our coconut farmers,” Pangilinan said.
Aside from the coco levy fund bill, Pangilinan is also batting for several pro-farmer and pro-fisher legislation such as the Sagip Saka Act of 2016, which will mandate national and local government agencies to purchase directly from accredited agricultural enterprises thereby increasing the incomes of the farmers and fisherfolk, and the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Pangilinan refiled the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act of 2016 before the opening of the 17th Congress last July 25.
MANILA – Ang 40-taong pakikibaka para sa P73-bilyong coco levy ay malapit nang magwakas nang ipahayag ni Senador Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan noong Miyerkules na ang Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act of 2016 (mas kilala bilang coco levy bill) ay nakatakdang nang idinig sa September 1.
Inaasahan ni Pangilinan, Chair ng Committee on Agriculture and Food, na ang isyu ng coco levy ay maaari nang mabigyan ng prayoridad matapos ang hindi pagkakapasa nito noong nakaraang kongreso.
“Malaki ang pag-asa nating maipasa ng batas na ito sa 17th Congress, at gagawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya upang mapabilis ang pagpasa nito. Dapat nating kilalanin ang urgency ng sitwasyon — masyado nang matagal ang paghihintay ng ating mga magsasaka,” ani Pangilinan.
Noong 2012, nagpasya ang Korte Suprema na ang pondong coco levy ay public funds at in-award ito sa pamahalaan para gamitin sa coconut industry.
Inilabas ni Dating Pangulong Benigno Aquino III ang dalawang executive order noong March 2015 para sa agarang imbentaryo at paglipat sa gobyerno para sa Integrated Coconut Industry Roadmap at ang Roadmap for the Coco Levy, at pinamadali niya ang pagpasa ng panukalang batas na ito.
Naipasa itong panukalang batas ng Mababang Kapulungan sa third reading noong October 2015, samantalang umabot lang ito sa period of amendments sa Senado. Si Pangilinan, na tumulong sa pagbuo ng panukalang batas bilang Cabinet Secretary, ay makailang ulit na nagtawag na maipasa ito noong nakaraang Kongreso.
“Ngayon, sisiguraduhin kong maipapasa ito. Ang panukalang batas na ito ay nagtatalaga ng accounting at imbentaryo ng mga coco levy assets na magiging perpetual trust fund na magagamit para sa industriya at sa pagpapalago nito. Pag nangyari ito, tataas ang kita ng ating mga coconut farmers,” ani Pangilinan.
Bukod dito, sinusulong din ni Pangilinan ang ilang maka-magsasaka at maka-mangingisdang batas tulad ng Sagip Saka, na magbibigay mandato sa mga pambansa at lokal na mga kagawaran para direktang bumili sa mga accredited na agricultural enterprises na siya ring magtataas ng kita ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda. Sinusulong din niya ang pagbuo ng hiwalay na Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Isinumiteng muli ni Pangilinan ang Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act bago mag-umpisa ang ika-17 na Kongreso noong Hulyo 25.