The House Committee on Agriculture and Food has passed a measure seeking to convert coconut levy (coco levy) fund assets into a trust fund to be used for projects benefitting the country’s coconut farmers.
Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr. of ANAC-IP party-list, chairman of the panel and one of the authors of the measure, said that the bill is in accordance with the 2012 ruling of the Supreme Court that declared certain assets acquired using coco levy funds as government-owned and should be used for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
The bill refers to coco levy funds as the “various funds generated from levies, taxes, charges, and other fees exacted or imposed pursuant to or in connection with the sale of copra rececada or its equivalent in other coconut products, and collected for the most part from coconut farmers, planters, millers, refiners, processors, exporters, desiccators and other end users of copra rececada or its equivalent in other coconut products” collected during the Marcos administration.
Aside from establishing the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund, the measure provides that the trust fund shall be deposited with the Bureau of Treasury. The P10-billion initial trust principal shall be used within two years from the approval of a “Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan” to be formulated by the executive department.
The measure also aims to create the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee, under the Office of the President, which will monitor the implementation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan and approve disbursements from the Trust Fund.
It also mandates the government to adopt measures immediately addressing serious problems besetting the coconut industry and protect the socio-economic well-being of coconut farmers.
“Towards this end, the benefits due to coconut farmers, especially the poor and the marginalized under various statutes shall be consolidated and their delivery expedited,” the panel said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the measure mandates the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to render a full accounting and inventory of all coco levy assets. The Commission on Audit will check the inventory prepared by the PCGG.
Panganiban, in one panel hearing, said that based on the records of the Bureau of Treasury, the coco levy fund was pegged at P62.5 billion in cash, deposited in a special account in the general fund. Another P13.09 billion is currently held in escrow and earning interest.
PCGG records, on the other hand, show that coco levy assets amount to P20 billion.
Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte of Camarines Sur suggested that the coconut-producing provinces must be given priority in the allocation of funds.