COCONUT farmers have expressed their hope that the long-overdue coco levy fund, now estimated at P100 billion, will be distributed under the new administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Danny Carranza, secretary general of Kilusan para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan), said he has no doubt there will be implementation of the law this year.

Before leaving Malacanang in June 2022, then-president Rodrigo Duterte had signed Republic Act (RA) 11524, creating the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, “to develop the coconut industry using recovered coco levy assets, which were declared state-owned by the Supreme Court less than 10 years ago.”

The law puts the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) into the task of crafting the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan “that will set the directions and policies for the development and rehabilitation of the industry within 50 years.”

The coconut farmers and industry development plan had been launched in Quezon.

During the launch, according to Carranza, the agencies involved in the implementation of RA 11524 presented their specific programs and services and corresponding budget.

From 1971 to 1982, the government under the late dictator Marcos began collecting the coco levy funds from coconut farmers through taxes, charges, levies, and other fees imposed for selling copra.

The funds were supposed to build up the country’s coconut research, credit services, and other programs to benefit the industry.

However, the collections were allegedly diverted to finance the business interests of the Marcos cronies.

With the assistance of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the coconut farmers filed cases against the Marcos Sr. administration and their close supporters to regain the funds that were left trapped in court disputes after Marcos and his cronies fled from the country in 1986.

In 2012, the Supreme Court finally ruled that coco levy funds were publicly-owned.

The court decision paved the way for the national government to craft policies to boost the coconut industry using the multi-billion coco levy fund.

Under Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the former strongman, the fund is now under tight watch.

“And if coconut farmers today are still asking when they will get their just share of the law's programs and services, that means there is also a serious gap in communicating the law and its program and services to the coconut farming communities,” said Carranza.

“So, making it beneficial to the poorest but most deserving coconut farmers is really a challenge that the government must address the soonest,” the coconut farmer leader said.

According to Carranza, many farmers still need more understanding of the law's content, prompting them to request an extension on the registration of farmers so they will be included in the list of farmers who can access the funds.

“Those who are registered will stand to benefit from the wave of program implementation,” he said.

“But the challenge is how to ensure that the programs and services under the law will reach the poorest coconut farmers,” added Carranza in a separate report on the Catholic news site Licas.News.

Earlier, Carranza also expressed alarm over the alleged misinformation on the coco levy fund after a local official made a recent comment on the issue publicly.

“It’s hard to understand why lies continue to spread, even on issues where facts are already clearly established. Today, the truth about the coco levy fund can be the next casualty of misinformation,” said Carranza.

The coconut farmer leader maintained the proper implementation of the law will rest on the shoulder of Marcos Jr. “to correct the wrongs committed by the Marcos dictatorship and its cronies.”

Some 3.5 million coconut farming families are seen to benefit from the coconut levy funds. (SunStar Philippines)