Press Release
July 28, 2020

Villar Welcomes President Duterte's SONA Call for the Utilization of Coco Levy Fund, Passage of Legislation to Set it in Motion

Senator Cynthia Villar welcomes the call of President Rodrigo Duterte in his state of the nation of the address (SONA) to utilize the coconut levy fund "for the welfare of coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry".

Villar has also been pushing for the release and utilization of the coco levy since 2016. The coco levy refers to the taxes imposed on coconut farmers from 1971 to 1983. The amount collected is now estimated to be PhP105 billion.

"Like the President, I believe that the the urgent utilization of the coconut levy fund will help uplift the lives of coconut farmers. It is long overdue, the monies of our coconut farmers, which they rightfully own, will also benefit the coconut industry, not only the 3.5 million coconut farmers," said Villar.

In his 5th SONA, the President also urged "both Houses of Congress to pass a version of the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund". As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Villar has already sponsored the revised version of the bill on May 28, 2020, plenary discussion of the legislation has already started.

"The bill was re-filed with some modifications, taking into consideration the inputs being suggested by the executive branch of government so it will not be vetoed again. We are confident that it will already be enacted into law, given the President's support," said Villar.

To recall, the President vetoed the version approved during the 17th Congress in 2019, but since his SONA in 2016, he has vowed to pass a law for the utilization of the coco levy fund. In his SONA on Monday, he said will leave it up to Congress to "sort out" on "how best the money can be utilized".

Villar-sponsored Senate Bill No. 1396 under Committee Report No. 65 or "An Act Creating the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, Providing for Its Management and Utilization, Reconstituting for the Purpose the Philippine Coconut Authority Board, And for Other Purposes" is in substitution of Senate Bill Nos. 31, 266, 1052, and 1127 with herself and fellow Senators Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Ralph G. Recto, and Imee R. Marcos as authors.

In the new bill, The Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will be managed and disbursed in accordance with the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan to be implemented by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), as approved by the President of the Philippines. The Plan shall set how the coconut industry will be rehabilitated in the next ninety-nine (99) years, which is the suggested lifespan of the Trust Fund.

The Plan shall include programs/activities/actions aimed at increasing farm productivity and incomes of coconut farmers; intensive effort on intercropping and livestock-raising, including dairy; the establishment of coconut-based enterprises; rehabilitation and modernization of the coconut industry towards global competitiveness; poverty alleviation and social equity, among several others.

Immediately upon enactment into law, the Bureau of Treasury shall transfer PhP5 Billion to the Trust Fund and another PhP5 Billion shall be initially allocated to the PCA. The utilization of the Trust Fund shall be for provisions of the establishment of facilities essential to the industry, empowerment of coconut farmers' organizations and cooperatives, farm improvement to encourage self-sufficiency, scholarship program, and health and medical program for industry members.

Villar added that the Trust Fund shall be separate and distinct from the regular fund of the PCA from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget. The PCA, as the implementing agency of this proposed law, will also be strengthened, with increased presence of government department secretaries in the Board, and additional farmers' representation from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

To ensure the judicious use of the fund, the bill also creates the Trust Fund Management Committee comprised of representatives from the Department of Finance (DoF) as the Fund Manager, Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and Department of Justice (DoJ).

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