LUCENA, Quezon: Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II will ensure the release of at least P70 billion of coco levy fund to the farmers if he gets elected as President in the May 9 synchronized local and national elections.
He was referring to the taxes exacted from coconut farmers under the dictatorial regime of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
“If elected, I will ensure that the goal of the coco levy fund to help the farmers will be realized,” Roxas said before a crowd of 7,000 people at the Quezon Convention Center. “The coco levy fund will reach the coconut farmers so they can send their children to school, have money for capital … so they can improve their yield and raise their income.”
The coco levy fund was supposedly for the 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 III.
Cojuangco is also chairman of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC), whose members are supporting at least three presidential bets in May: Roxas, Sen. Grace Poe and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Aquino had signed Executive Order 180, which would have enabled the government to disburse the coco levy fund. The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on it, however, stemming from a petition lodged by a certain Philippine Coconut Producers Federation, Inc., which is linked to Cojuangco.
Roxas cited that coconut farmers are only earning P30,000 – P40,000 per hectare in a year, and additional resources for intercropping could hike that amount to P100,000 – P200,00 a year.
“Coco levy is not an end but the means for improving the lives of our workers,” Roxas stressed.
The House passed the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act, or House Bill 6135, in Oct. 2015, which could have dispensed the fund. But the Senate failed to act on it even if Aquino had certified as urgent the said measure.
In addition, Roxas on Tuesday assured farmers here of more infrastructure projects as well as additional post-harvest facilities, tillers, 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,” Roxas said in closing. LLANESCA PANTI