Senators ‘stalled’ fund distribution

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet: Senators are to blame for the stalled distribution of P80-billion worth of coconut levy funds to its rightful owners–coconut farmers, Liberal Party (LP) residential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd said in La Trinidad recently.

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Roxas, in a visit to the Trading Post, the hub for fresh vegetables and fruits, here, was referring to the funds that are taxes exacted from coconut farmers under the strongman rule of then-President Ferdinand Marcos.

The coconut levy funds were supposed to go to construction of projects designed for the benefit of the coconut farmers but instead was used to buy a large percentage of the United Coconut Planters Bank by tycoon and San Miguel Corp. boss Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.

Roxas said President Benigno Aquino 3rd did what he could to have the funds distributed to their rightful owners by certifying the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act, or House Bill 6135, as urgent, but the Senate failed to act on it.

“[The President] certified it as urgent, the House of Representatives passed that into law in October 2015. Maybe it would be good to ask our senators, ‘What did you do about the coco levy [funds]?’” he told reporters.

“The senators should have answers [to this]question, including those who are running for office [in the 2016 elections],” Roxas said.

The senators who are running for higher office in the May 9 polls include Grace Poe for President, Alan Cayetano for Vice President, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for Vice President and Sen. Francis Escudero, also for Vice President.

The Senate, however, is headed by LP stalwart Franklin Drilon.

President Aquino already signed Executive Order (EO) 180 that would have enabled the government to disburse the coconut levy funds.

The Supreme Court, however, issued a temporary restraining order on EO 180, over a petition lodged by Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc., which is allegedly linked to Cojuangco, founder of political party Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition (NPC).

The NPC is backing the presidential bid of Senator Poe, although some of its members are also supporting Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay.

LLANESCA T. PANTI

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