Pangilinan Refiles Coco Levy Bill, Vows To Expedite Passage

July 21, 2016

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MANILA – After the previous Congress failed to pass the Coco Levy Trust Fund Bill, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Thursday committed to expedite its passage as he refiles the measure in preparation for the opening of the 17th Congress this Monday, July 25.

“Ngayong muli tayong pinagkatiwalaang maupo sa Senado, sisiguraduhin natin na mabibigyang-pansin at mapapabilis ang pagpasa ng batas na ito. Halos 40 taon na itong hinihintay ng ating mga magniniyog (Now that we have been entrusted to, once again, assume a seat in the Senate, we will personally make sure to expedite the deliberation and passage of this measure. Our coconut farmers have been waiting for this for more than 40 years),” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan has repeatedly called for the passage of the measure during the 16th Congress — especially when the coco levy was highlighted during the second presidential debate.

“Wala na pong dahilan upang hindi pag-usapan ang coco levy. Kailangan na itong harapin upang mapakinabangan na ng ating mga magniniyog na nag-ambag mula sa kanilang kita simula pa noong panahon ng Martial Law (There is no reason to not deliberate upon the coco levy. We must immediately face the issue so that the coconut farmers, who have contributed a portion of their earnings since the Martial Law era, will finally benefit),” he said.

The Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act of 2016 proposes a complete accounting and inventory of the coco levy assets (estimated to be around P73 billion) and for it to be converted into a perpetual trust fund that will be used for the development of the coconut industry without using the principal.

Pangilinan helped craft the bill during his stint as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization. It is based on a draft coconut industry poverty reduction road map focusing on coconut enterprise development prepared by the National Anti-Poverty Commission alongside coconut farmers.

“Maraming maaaring pagkakitaan sa industriya ng pagniniyog, hindi lamang copra. Nariyan ang virgin coconut oil, coco sugar, coco coir, coco water na mataas ang demand. Kapag napaunlad ang mga industriyang ito, lalaki ang kita ng ating mga magsasaka (There are several more profitable produce of the coconut aside from copra such as the virgin coconut oil, coco sugar, coco coir, coco water, among others with very high demands. If the industry will be made robust, it will significantly increase the income of our coconut farmers),” Pangilinan said.

A Coconut Farmers and Industry Fund Committee will be formed to implement the development plan, composing of coconut farmers’ representatives, the Agriculture and Finance Secretaries, the Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority, and the Administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

The coco levy funds have been stuck in court disputes until 2012, when the Supreme Court awarded the shares bought with coco levy funds to the government to be used for coconut farmers and the industry.

Malacanang issued two executive orders (EO 179 and 180) in March 2015 to require the inventory of the assets and for its immediate transfer to the government to be used for the Integrated Coconut Industry Roadmap and the Roadmap for Coco Levy.

The President certified the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill as urgent, with the House of Representatives passing the measure on third reading last October 2015. The Senate went only as far as period of amendments.

According to the PCA, there are currently 3.5 million coconut farmers from 68 coconut producing provinces with the average annual income of P15,000, or about P41 a day. It was also reported that the coconut industry is suffering from a decline in production. Coconut lands cover 30% of the country’s total agricultural area.

The Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act is part of Pangilinan’s pro-farmer priority pieces of legislation filed June 30.

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