Aquino wants law on coco levy fund

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REACHING OUT President Benigno Aquino 3rd receives from a representative of farmers groups a document containing the proposals for the implementation of the coco levy fund during a dialogue in Malacañang on Wednesday.  MALACAÑANG PHOTO

REACHING OUT President Benigno Aquino 3rd receives from a representative of farmers groups a document containing the proposals for the implementation of the coco levy fund during a dialogue in Malacañang on Wednesday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday pushed for passage of a law outlining how farmers will benefit from the P71-billion coco levy fund.

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In his speech at the start of his dialogue with coconut farmers, Aquino said his administration will help craft an acceptable measure, which he vowed to certify as urgent once it reaches Congress.

“Ang nakikita ko nga pong pinakamagandang gawin ay ang bumuo ng isang batas: Sisiguruhin nitong tatawid sa mga susunod na salinlahi ang benepisyong dala ng coco levy fund [A law on how farmers will gain from the fund is the best thing to come up with. It will ensure that the next generation of farmers will benefit from it],” Aquino told members of coconut farmers’ group KILUS Magniniyog.

While the bill is being crafted, the President said he will study the possibility of issuing an executive order providing for a mechanism for the fund, which came from taxes collected from coconut farmers during the martial law years.

The Supreme Court in 2012 ruled that 24 percent of San Miguel Corp. shares was bought with coco levy funds.

It awarded the block to the government with a caveat that it should be used only for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the industry.

For the meantime, Aquino agreed that the coco levy fund should be on top of the budget given to Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

He also agreed to use only the interest earned by the fund to ensure that the next generation of farmers will also benefit.

From a budget of P593 million in 2010, PCA’s funding for 2013 reached P5.1 billion, Aquino said.

Part of the fund was used to help coconut farmers affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda and those whose crops were devastated by cocolisap infestation.

According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, the P1.38 billion released to the PCA will support the agency’s operations and various programs that can help strengthen the coconut industry.

“Coconut production is an important agri-business industry in our country. Not only does it contribute to the growth of our economy, it also generates a large number of jobs and income for our farmers.

Through their efforts and their programs, the PCA is helping create a resilient and sustainable future for both the farmers and the industry,” Abad said in a statement.

The PCA will first get P466 million to partly cover operations and select programs that are ready for implementation, like the payment of farmers’ incentives under the Participatory Coconut Planting Program, as well as the organic fertilizers for the Coconut Fertilization Program.

It will also help coconut farmers in capacity-building under the intercropping program.

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