Saturday , June 23, 2018

Agri group says coco levy funds as trust fund to benefit more

AGRICULTURAL Cooperative Development International Philippines (ACDI/VOCA) believes that the distribution of the P100-billion coco levy fund through a trust fund will be better distributed to the coconut farmers.

As coconut farmers had been faced with production concerns especially because of crop and agricultural land conversion and the cocolisap issues, ACDI/VOCA chief of party Thelonious Trimmell said the coco levy fund which had been an issue for decades now, can be a long-term solution to the industry problem.

“The coconut levy fund has some potential to address a lot of these production concerns. There’s a lot of resources there. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult to figure how to get that money out and distribute it. My opinion, I think they are already in the process of establishing a trust fund. Ideally, that trust fund will issue grants to coops and other entities to implement projects and for proper use of money,” said Trimmell who had been in the country for almost three years now and had been part of various assistance provided for coconut farmers in the country.

He added a trust fund would be a better and more fairly distributed help to the farmers through project grants versus directly issuing cheques to farmers and coops.

During the visit of senate committee chair for food and agriculture Senator Cynthia Villar at the Davao Agri Trade Expo last September 22, she promised to pass the Coconut Industry Development Fund within her term as the committee chair. The development fund, she said, will tackle the proper use of the Coco Levy Fund.

The Coco Levy Fund dates back to the 1970s to the 80s wherein former President Ferdinand Marcos, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. among others allegedly conspired to tax coconut farmers to develop the industry. However it was said that the accumulated fund was used to purchase the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and a major share of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

Over the years, under a number of presidents, promises of distributing the fund to the farmers had been kept but still nothing had been distributed to the farmers still.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign period, he signed a manifesto in front of the farmers signifying his support to the efforts in connection with the giving back of the funds to the coconut farmers. It was during this time as well that former Quezon representative Oscar Santos told him to not give money directly to the farmers but to return funds through cooperatives or trust funds.