Give farmers bigger role over coconut levy funds

WE in the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) are calling on the Duterte administration to maximize the participation of and benefits to small coconut farmers under Republic Act (RA) 11524 or 'The Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,' which, which took effect recently.

Toward that end and during a virtual meeting last February 3 with Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar and Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Benjamin Madrigal Jr., we proposed a farmers advisory council to the Trust Fund Management Committee created under RA 11524.

Composed of the Departments of Finance (DoF), Justice, and Budget and Management, the Trust Fund Management Committee is legally empowered to decide on the disposition/privatization of coconut levy-acquired companies and the investment strategy for monetized assets.

The DoF is manager of the trust fund.

Our secretary-general, Dioscoro Granada, believes that “coconut farmers paid the coconut levies.  They have the moral and legal right to be consulted on the fate of these corporations and other assets that are supposed to benefit them directly.”

The firms he refers to include the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), the Coconut Industry Investment Fund-Oil Mills Group (CIIF-OMG), the United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corp. (Cocolife), the UCPB General Insurance Co. (Cocogen) and the United Coconut Chemicals Corp. (Cocochem).

Mr. Granada has sought clarification on who will approve the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) governing the work of the Trust Fund Management Committee.

He notes: “Under the law, the President shall approve the coconut farmers and industry development plan to be prepared by the PCA, in consultation with coconut farmers’ organizations and other coconut industry stakeholders.  Shouldn’t he also approve the IRR drafted by the Trust Fund Management Committee, which handles the assets privatization and funding for the road map?”

On the selection of the three small coconut farmers’ representatives in the PCA board, we would like to remind Secretary Dar and Administrator Madrigal to implement Section 5(g) of RA 11524 in conjunction with RA 7607 (Magna Carta of Small Farmers), which states in part:

“SECTION 6.  Farmers Representation in Government. – After voluntarily organizing themselves on the barangay (village), municipal, provincial and regional levels, the farmers who have been elected through all levels shall elect from among themselves their national officials who, notwithstanding existing laws to the contrary, shall occupy a seat in the boards of concerned government agencies such as, but not limited to, the Philippine Coconut Authority….”

LEONARDO Q. MONTEMAYOR

Board Chairman

Federation of Free Farmers