Bill seeks to return P54-B levy funds to coco industry

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Los Baños, Laguna: A group of retired government officials and senior members of the academe is almost finished drafting a measure that seeks to return to over 3.4 million coconut farmers and farm workers nationwide their rightful share of the P54 billion coconut levy funds which the Supreme Court earlier ruled as monies belonging to the farmers and the industry.

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A senator asked the group to craft the measure to ensure the return of the levy funds to the rightful owners and administrators. The group is hopeful that the measure, once implemented, will rejuvenate the ailing coconut sector through the infusion of the levy funds.

The Supreme Court ruled on January 24, 2012 that the coconut levy funds were intended for the coconut industry and the coconut farmers and ordered the current president to form a task force to closely monitor the compliance with the ruling on the intended utilization of the levy funds.

“We are almost done with the measure,” a retired senior government official who once served as head of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) told The Manila Times. He asked not to be identified although he confirmed that a senator had sought the help of his group after being briefed about the unfortunate plight of the country’s coconut farmers.

“Despite the highest court’s ruling, nothing significant has been achieved that would aid the industry’s 1.5 million coconut farmers and 1.9 million farm workers tilling close to 3.2 million hectares planted to 340 million coconut trees,” he pointed out.

The measure would be known as “modernizing the Coconut Industry and Uplifting the Coconut Farmers.”

It is aimed primarily at establishing a Philippine Coconut Industry Development Council (PCIDC) that would oversee the coconut levy funds as a capital or trust fund and optimally use its revenues for the revitalization and modernization of the coconut industry with emphasize on the socio-economic well-being of coconut farmers.

The council will be composed of legitimate stakeholders and a secretariat that will be headed by an executive director who will be on top in the drafting, management and implementation of policies, strategies and guidelines spelled out by the PCIDC Governing Council.

The Director General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) shall serve as chairman of the Governing Council.

Some P20 million is being proposed as initial funding for the council’s operations that would be source from interest or income generated from the coconut levy funds or any other sources identified by the NEDA and the Department of the Budget and Management.

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