Keep hands off coco levy fund, lawmaker tells Pangilinan

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014


A MILITANT lawmaker on Wednesday advised newly appointed Presidential Adviser for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan to keep his hands off the multi-billion peso coco levy fund.

Anakpawis party-list Representative Fernando Hicap said the coco levy fund is owned by small coconut farmers and shall be used exclusively for the benefit of genuine small coconut farmers.

"The coco levy must be returned to small coconut farmers," said Hicap.

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The former senator will serve as the Aquino administration's agriculture and food Security czar as he is tasked to oversee four agencies under the Department of Agriculture (DA), namely National Food Authority (NFA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), where allegations of corruption have been raised against its Agriculture chief, Proceso Alcala.

Hicap on Wednesday filed a proposal, which seeks to distribute the recovered funds to small coconut farmers.

Under House Bill 1327 the coco levy, which is now estimated to have ballooned to 150 million, "shall be apportioned to all coconut farmers without discrimination in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits; medical and hospitalization benefits; maternity benefits; and educational assistance including scholarships.

The bill also seeks to finance socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives that shall primarily focus on; livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to small coconut farmers; small and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of local coconut production; and, programs that would provide loan facilities for small coconut farmers.

Hicap said that under the measure, the government is inclined to use the multi-billion coco levy funds for the rehabilitation efforts of coconut farmlands affected by typhoon Yolanda.

The lawmaker cited that early this year, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) received an initial rehabilitation fund of P2.8-billion from Malacañang to aid coco farmers in Leyte and Samar provinces, Panay Island, northern Cebu and Bantayan Island that were hit by Yolanda.

"Coco farmers need direct assistance and other social benefits to help them recover," Hicap said.

He noted that six months after Typhoon Yolanda, small coconut farmers have yet to receive direct assistance from the national government.

"Super typhoon Yolanda destroyed more than 33-million or 10 percent of the country's coconut trees, leaving millions of coconut farmers with no source of income and livelihood and dependent on local and foreign aid," Hicap said. (Sunnex)

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