Gov’t may now tap P75-billion coco levy fund for farmers

Coconut farmers in the village of Robocon in Linamon, Lanao del Norte province, in this photo taken in June 2019, eke out a living by manually drying their harvest into copra while waiting for the benefits due them from the coconut levy fund. STORY:

MANILA, Philippines —  Just weeks before ending his term, President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order that will pave the way for the government to finally tap the multibillion-peso coco levy fund to revive and modernize the country’s coconut industry.

On June 2, \Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 172, or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), to serve as basis in using the P75-billion coco levy fund through various programs and projects.

The CFIDP, which is to be reviewed annually, aims “to increase overall productivity and income of coconut farmers, alleviate poverty, and achieve the twin objectives of rehabilitating and modernizing the coconut industry to attain social equity,” the directive read.

It mandates the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and other concerned agencies to implement the plan, which will be updated every five years, subject to the President’s approval.

Funds for implementing the coconut industry blueprint will be taken from the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund (CFITF) as stipulated under Republic Act No. 11524, a piece of legislation signed by Mr. Duterte in February last year creating the fund using the recovered coco levy assets.

From 1971 to 1982, the government under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos collected money from coconut farmers by imposing levies, taxes, charges and other fees for selling copra. The collections were supposed to build up a fund to finance coconut research, extension and credit services and other programs and projects to benefit the coconut industry in general.

However, subsequent lawsuits filed by coconut farmers, with the help of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), after Marcos fled in 1986 alleged that cronies of the Marcos administration diverted the funds to finance their own business interests, to the detriment of the millions of coconut farmers.

The Supreme Court, however, issued a ruling in 2012 that settled the ownership of the coco levy fund and declared the money as being owned by the government.

In June 2015, the high court also stopped Malacañang from implementing former President Benigno Aquino III’s EOs 179 and 180 on the privatization and reconveyance of the coco levy fund.

Campaign promise

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the P75-billion coco levy fund would be distributed in tranches to the trust fund immediately with the signing of the law creating the CFIDP.

The DA said P10 billion would be disbursed on the first year, P10 billion on the second, P15 billion each on the third and fourth year, and P25 billion and any other amount accruing, including interest, on the fifth year.

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