• Whatever happened to the P54 billion coco levy fund?

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    Jose V. Romero

    Jose V. Romero

    Last year as I recall, amidst a lot of drumbeating, Danding Cojuangco as chairman of San Miguel Corporation, handed over a check for P54 billion representing the purchase by the beer company of the shares of the coconut farmers invested with the conglomerate in the form of preferred shares. The check that was handed to officials of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) – the conduit of the farmers in this investment, dutifully accepted the amount which was immediately deposited with the National Treasury, since the Supreme Court ruled this to be government funds, albeit dedicated for the coconut industry.

    That has been some time ago and the expectations of millions of coconut farmers was that this was payback time and that the government would immediately deploy the amount for the rehabilitation of an aging industry suffering from senile decay. With the catastrophic typhoon which hit Eastern Visayas and wiped out a huge supply center for coconuts amounting to not less than a fourth of coconut production in the country, farmer expectation for the early release of the levy funds was heightened. But alas and alack not a whimper was heard from officers accountable for the fund from the government.

    This invited the speculation that this administration has ulterior motives in the disposition of the funds. The lame excuse on the part of the administration of the need for a roadmap prior to the release of the funds no longer holds since roadmaps after roadmaps have already been accomplished by both the private sector and public sector committees assigned to the task. We have personally seen these strategic plans, if we may call them as such, which seem doable. There has also been piles of bills in both houses of Congress that purports to set up implementing agencies for the disposition of the levies.

    Again we ask – What is the administration waiting for? Unless these funds are quickly deployed this administration will have created a moral hazard as in the Malampaya funds. With elections in the horizon there are even those who speculate that these funds would be used to favor this administration in the electoral exercise. To kill the speculation we suggest that the government immediately get the NEDA or the Agriculture Department to program these funds posthaste.

    To be sure, this humongous amount extracted out of the blood sweat and tears of the coconut farming community will be considered as the biggest hoax in the economic annals of this country. Designed in the early seventies as the redemption of the poverty stricken sector of agriculture it promised the moon to the coconut farmers – a coconut bank to address their production and consumption needs, processing plants to create additional incomes and employment, nurseries and research facilities etc., etc.

    Today we know better. The Coco Levy funds instead of trickling down to the intended beneficiaries only trickled up to the fund handlers who continue to acquire and pile up asset after asset for a conglomerate built on coconut funds even as coconut farmers simply stare in awe and envy outside the kulambo.

    The only thing we can say is that if the farmers are deprived of these funds, this injustice and inequity will cry out to high heavens for revenge and the history book will characterize this as the biggest scam and cruelest hoax ever in the history of this country.

    The author served as Philippine Ambassador to Italy. He also chaired the Philippine Coconut Authority and served as Department of Agriculture undersecretary. He was also executive director of the Common Fund for Commodities, a United Nations-affiliated organization based in Amsterdam.

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    7 Comments

    1. Nanakaw na yata ng mga Yellows at Lp sa Malacanang at Congress…di ba “last two minutes” na daw…? kaya mabilisan na ang nakawan ngayon….

      Sus, yun ngang P136 Billion Malampaya Fund, biglang naglaho, eh…ito pang P54 Billion…kailangan-kailangan pa naman yan ngayon to replace the million sof coconut trees damaged and uprooted by Yolanda….

    2. I commented on this subject on another broadsheet (MST). In Tacloban and Samar, a lot of people are struggling in their effort to recover from the disaster brought by Yolanda. I am saying, instead of handing out aids in kind or cash, why don’t the government task the DOA with the financing of the COconut Levy Fund to hire the farmers replant coconut. What does it matter if they are paid to replant their own little farms with coconut seedlings provided by the government? It’s their money anyway. It is one way of helping the farmers regain their waning hope and dignity. This is also an opportunity to strike a deal with land owners. The government will fund the project if the landowners agree to provide employment to more people planting coconuts and to improve the working conditions of the farm workers. Everybody saw what nature can do to agriculture and it is imperative that landowners and farmers go hand in hand to develop ways to protect both their interest, with one taking advantage of the other.

    3. Maybe this coco levy fund will suffer the same fate as the 130 billion malampaya royalty fund (remember? questioned before by Sen Recto) juggled to as general fund and suddenly became DAP money and who knows will again be channeled to the hidden lump sum in the budget for some greedy senators and congressmen to appease them again for the priority bills being pushed by Malacanyang.

    4. The national treasury is debt ridden instruction. Our country was always in the red every year. Will you lend or deposit your money in a cash strapped bank?

    5. Mr. Romero, I am so disgusted the way the national treasury is being exploited at the expense of the Filipino people especially the poor farmers. Most government officials and their cohorts are shameless and lacking dignity while pretending they are working for the poor, but in reality they enrich themselves using their positions and connections to no end!

      Just when is this going to stop?

    6. The very big question is what is the criminal liability of Danding Cojuangco for claiming the billion peso coco levy funds as his money? If the SC decided otherwise the billions coco funds will be the equivalent of a humungous pdaf pocketed by Danding in broad daylight.

    7. Asuncion Camacho Bana (Ordonez) on

      Thank you , Mr. Romero. Writing this article somehow is enlightening for many families Filipino coconut farmers (majority are deceased incldg my late father ),especially the poor to know and understand that there was a coconut levy program established for them in the 1970’s under former President Marcos ,from which there was a SC settlement last year , 54 billion pesos check handed to CIIF on their behalf deposited to the gov’t treasury . it will only serve a productive purpose if the funds will be used to enrich the coconut industries by providing coconut farmers and their children the benefits they are entitled to have ,thereby enhancing their ability to improve their source of livelihood.