• Stop politicizing coco levy issue, LP chided


    THE Confederation of Coconut Farmers’ Organizations of the Philippines (CCFOP) on Sunday decried apparent efforts of the Liberal Party (LP) to politicize the coconut levy fund issue by blaming some members of the Senate for non-passage of a proposed law on the levy fund.

    Efren Villasenor, chairman of the CCFOP, a unified group of coconut farmers’ groups nationwide, said the administration should not blame Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero because they did the right thing in making sure the proposed law will really benefit coconut farmers.

    “We welcome recent statements made by [Poe and Escudero] that showed a real understanding of the new tasks facing the coconut farmers’ struggle for justice,” Villasenor added.

    The group was behind a petition that eventually rendered Executive Order 179 and EO 180 illegal by the Supreme Court.

    In an interview Villasenor said Poe, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food,wants to make sure that the version of the Senate will not be a clone of the two EOs issued by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

    Aquino, in March 2015, signed EOs 179 and 180–which provide guidelines that will govern the inventory, transfer, reconveyance and disposition of coconut levy funds and coconut levy assets; and the administrative guidelines for the reconveyance and utilization of such assets, respectively.

    But the High Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the two EOs in connection with the petition filed by the CCFOP.

    “We had no choice but to petition the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the immoral, unconstitutional, illegal and anti-farmer Executive Orders 179 and 180. These twin executive orders, if not stopped or modified, could only lead to a much worse coco-economy of exclusion,” said Charlie Avila, executive director of the farmers’ confederation.

    The CCFOP at the same time blamed Francis Pangilinan, former presidential assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, for “inspiring” Malacanang to issue the orders.

    “In the past , the farmers struggled against the absolute private ownership of the funds by a few privateers. Today, the farmers are up against government itself that immorally assumed absolute ownership of the funds, which court doctrine had already defined as public trust funds,” Villasenor said.

    He added that while they agree to have an inventory of all coconut-levy funded assets and investments, it is wrong to make a mockery of what the court had just declared public trust funds by rushing to privatize them as proposed by Section 5 of EO 179.

    “The draft bills in Congress, which quite fortunately did not become law, were mere clones of the assailed executive orders and therefore we had to oppose them too. We look forward to a truly pro-farmer and pro-industry dispensation after the May elections,” Villasenor said.


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