‘Coco levy first, not death penalty’

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SENATOR Francis Pangilinan has urged lawmakers from the House of Representatives to fast-track the passage of the coconut levy trust fund instead of the death penalty bill.

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In a statement read to reporters during a forum in Quezon City, Pangilinan disclosed that the Senate has started the discussions over the passage of the coconut levy fund bill in the chamber and has “made good progress.”

“Tomorrow… is the schedule of the third set of interpellations on this measure. We hope that our representatives in the [House of Representatives] would focus on this problem of poverty [of]and injustice [to]our coconut farmers instead of on the death penalty,” he said

“Let’s eliminate hunger, not the hungry,” the senator added.

Pangilinan mentioned that they were told in the Senate that there have been meetings going on over the technical working groups but there have been no such hearings, according to him.

The Liberal Party president said the campaign promises by then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano during the national elections in 2016 where the two vowed that in their first 100 days, the over P76-billion coco levy fund will benefit coconut farmers.

He added that the two signed a manifesto in front of coconut farmers “to open new and happy chapter in the lives of our coconut industry and small coconut farmers” and “to support going after the remaining funds left with cronies.”

Pangilinan, Senate committee chairman on agriculture and food, said lawmakers from Congress “need to enact a legislation that will allow for these funds to be utilized.

During the forum, a coconut farmer from Quezon province urged an “urgent” order from President Duterte.

“He [Duterte] needs to come up with an urgent executive order for the coco levy funds provision for farmers,” Jansept Geronimo said.

In November 2016, Pangilinan sponsored his committee’s report on a consolidated bill creating trust funds for coconut farmers and the coconut industry.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the coco levy fund is public fund and awarded it to the government solely for the development of the coconut industry. DEMPSEY REYES

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