THE Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the claimants movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) on Saturday lambasted senator-elect Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan for “rejecting and distorting” their demand for the cash distribution of the coconut levy fund to small coconut farmers.
The KMP issued the statement after Pangilinan said he foresees problems if the money will be distributed to farmers. He said that “if the P72 billion in the national treasury would be distributed outright to three million coconut farmers, each farmer would get only around P20,000.”
“It appears that Pangilinan is distorting the just and legitimate demand of small coconut farmers. The small coconut farmers’ demand for the direct cash distribution of coco levy money is no dole out,” Antonio Flores, the group’s secretary general, said.
CLAIM-Quezon coordinator Arvin Borromeo reminded Pangilinan that the demand of small coconut farmers is for the government to return the money forcibly exacted from them.
He said small coconut farmers should be the primary beneficiaries of the fund “in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits, and educational assistance including scholarships, among others.”
Both groups added that to ensure that the money of small coconut farmers will not be depleted or “plundered again by corrupt bureaucrats”, a “Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund” should be created and administered and managed by a “Small Coconut Farmers’ Council” mainly composed of small coconut farmers themselves.
“This mechanism will protect the rights and interest of small coconut farmers to the coco levy fund,” Flores said.
Borromeo said the mechanism “will also pave the way for the turnover of coconut oil mills and other coco levy funded assets to small coconut farmers because these assets were acquired using our money.”
“The Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall not be part of the general funds of the national government and shall be used exclusively for the benefit of genuine small coconut farmers,” he added.
“Under a Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund, the entire coco levy fund and assets, including but not limited to the United Coconut Planters Bank and coco levy fund-acquired coconut oil mills, will be administered, utilized and used for the benefit of small coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry in support of national industrialization,” Borromeo explained.
Under the two groups’ proposal, “socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall primarily focus on: livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to small coconut farmers; small and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of local coconut production; and programs that would provide loan facilities for small coconut farmers.”