LUCENA CITY, Quezon: Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd will ensure the release of at least P70 billion coconut levy fund to farmers if he wins in the May 2016 polls.
The levy fund came from taxes exacted from coconut farmers under the administration of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
It was supposedly meant for construction of projects designed for the benefits of coconut farmers but was used to buy a large percentage of the United Coconut Planters Bank by business tycoon and San Miguel Corp. boss Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., uncle of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Cojuangco is also the chairman of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, whose members are said to be supporting at least three presidential bets in this year’s elections: Roxas, Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
“If elected, I will ensure that the goal of the coco levy fund to help the farmers will be realized. The coco levy fund will reach the coconut farmers so they can send their children to school, have money for capital, spend for inter-cropping so they can improve their yield and raise their income,” Roxas told a crowd of around 7,000 people in Quezon Convention Center on Tuesday.
President Aquino already signed Executive Order 180 that would have enabled the government to disburse the coconut levy fund but the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on such EO stemming from a petition lodged by a certain Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc., which is linked to Cojuangco.
Roxas said coconut farmers are only earning P30,000 to P40,000 per hectare in a year, and additional resources sourced from the coconut levy fund for inter-cropping could raise that amount to P100,000 to P200,00 a year.
“Coco levy is not an end but the means for improving the lives of our workers,” he added.
The House passed the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act or House Bill 6135 in October 2015 that could have dispensed the fund but the Senate failed to act on it even if the measure was certified urgent by the President.
In addition, Roxas assured farmers here of more infrastructure projects as well as additional post-harvest facilities, tillers and freezers, among others, to enable them to explore bigger markets for their products.
“Infrastructure is very important because if you keep on selling your products just within your communities, you will only get very low prices. Your products should reach bigger markets, so we will put up trading posts as first step to bring convenience to you,” he said.