‘Give P200-b coco levy to farmers’

A party-list lawmaker on Thursday sought a House probe to account for the P150 billion to P200 billion coconut levy funds to ensure that they will benefit the poor coconut farmers.

AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, in House Resolution 1518, said some farmers’ groups have called on Malacañang Palace to issue an Executive Order to give them access to the fund.

“These poor coconut farmers have long suffered the injustice of paying the levies throughout the years without reaping the benefits. The coconut levy funds were exacted from coconut farmers and were supposedly for the construction and implementation of various projects for their benefit,” said Garin, vice chairman of the House committee on ways and means.

In asking the House committee on good government and public accountability to conduct the probe, he said the coco levy funds were different kinds of taxes imposed on coconut farmers since 1971 as mandated by a series of Presidential Decrees.

The levy funds were lodged under the Philippine Coconut Authority to be administered under the Coconut Investment Fund in 1971 through the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund Coconut Industry Development Fund, Coconut Industry Investment Fund and the Coconut Stabilization Fund, said Guarin.

She said levy funds were used to buy 72.5 percent of the United Coconut Planters Bank and to create United Coconut Oil Mills, COCOFED, COCOMARK and COCOLIFE, among other firms.

In 2013, Guarin said the Supreme Court ruled that the coco levy funds were public and awarded to the government all the shares of stocks and all funds connected to the coco levy investments. It also dismissed with finality all the petitions for reconsideration.

“It is estimated that the coco levy funds now total between P150 billion to P200 billion, but there have been no actual accounting of the current value of all the shares of stocks, amounts held in escrow, dividends, and interests among all the acquired assets, which are now part of the funds returned to the government for the benefit of coconut farmers,” said Garin.

She said farmers’ groups have been locked in a battle with the Presidential Task Force on Coco Levy Fund under the National Anti-Poverty Commission on how to handle the funds.

Garin said the task force proposed a P11.17 billion Poverty Reduction Road Map of the Coconut Industry.

But the farmers wanted the creation of trust funds, health and education funds, loans and livelihood programs and cash distribution to beneficiaries.

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