A new law is needed for the government to unlock over P74 billion in coconut levy funds for the benefit of coconut farmers and their families, the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team said on Monday.
In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said President Rodrigo Duterte would push for new legislation as soon as the Supreme Court lifts a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the fund.
Dominguez said a law was needed so the money could be used by farmers in coconut-producing areas for projects such as support programs and scholarships for their dependents.
Because the fund is with the national treasury, it cannot be spent without congressional approval, he pointed out.
“Supporting scholarships, supporting better farming methods, maybe supporting the new intercropping methods as well as new coconut varieties should be done, but I think this should be done by legislation,” he said.
The Finance chief said the matter was discussed in a recent Cabinet meeting, and the President expressed his preference for the money to be used for the exclusive benefit of coconut farmers and their families.
“We have discussed that at the Cabinet, and, you know, it’s quite a complicated issue, but we are going to make sure that the funds in the national treasury . . . will be used exclusively for the benefit of the coconut farmers,” Dominguez said.
The coco levy fund, which was collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos administration, has been locked up in legal cases for years over ownership issues.
“Now, we cannot say which particular coconut farmers [will benefit]because this thing happened 40 years ago. So the use of the funds will be dedicated to the areas where coconut is a major part of the economy,” Dominguez said.