Enacting into law a measure governing use and disposition of the P71-billion coconut levy funds and assets is better than the Executive Orders (EOs) signed recently by President Benigno Aquino 3rd because a law will have a permanent effect, according to a lawmaker.
Sen. Cynthia Villar on Sunday said she welcomes the signing of the two EOs but added that a law on use of the P71 billion would be more beneficial to coconut farmers in the country.
Villar was referring to the orders that were signed by Aquino last March 18.
EO 179 provides guidelines that will govern the inventory, transfer, reconveyance and disposition of the coconut levy funds and assets, while EO 180 provides administrative guidelines on utilization of the P71 billion.
“While an EO can be implemented immediately, we maintain that a law will have a more permanent effect and will supplement the intention of the [EO] to use the coco levy funds for the direct benefit of the farmers,” Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, pointed out.
She recently sponsored a committee report on Senate Bill (SB) 267, which seeks to create a Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund.
The trust fund will be composed of all coconut levy assets, including those recently declared by the Supreme Court (SC) as special public funds.
SB 267 requires conduct of audit and inventory of all coconut levy assets in order to account for all assets funded out of the coconut levy funds, including their nature, value and description, among others.
The bill also directs the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Committee to direct and coordinate privatization of non-cash levy assets.
The committee will be composed of the Department of Agriculture secretary as chairman; the Department of Finance secretary as vice chairman; the National Economic and Development Authority secretary-general; the Philippine Coconut Authority administrator; and five representatives from the coconut farmers sector.
Under the Senate bill, the P71-billion coco levy funds and assets will become the initial capital of the trust fund that will be maintained perpetually and will only be allowed to be invested in Philippine government securities.
It will be the Bureau of Treasury that will be designated as the depository of the trust fund while all non-cash assets will be transferred to the Trust Fund Committee and will be privatized by the Privatization and Management Office within five years and the proceeds will be remitted to the trust fund and will augment its capital.
Funds can only be used exclusively on coconut-related programs such as coconut productivity, including intercropping and livestock raising; community-based coconut enterprises, including integrated processing of coconut products and downstream products; coconut farmers organization and development; and social protection programs, such as medical, health and life insurance services and scholarship grants.
A similar measure is also pending at the House of Representatives–House Bill (HB) 1327 or the Genuine Small Coconut Farmer’s Fund.
HB 1327 seeks to ensure that the coconut levy funds and assets will be used solely for lifting coconut farmers from poverty and destitution.