Press Release
September 11, 2020

Bong Go expresses support for the passage of new version of coco levy bill to benefit less fortunate coconut farmers

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go expressed his support for the latest version of the coco levy bill being tackled in the Senate plenary. This measure aims to provide for the utilization of the Coco Levy Fund to benefit the country's coconut farmers after an earlier version approved during the 17th Congress was vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the Senate regular session on Tuesday, September 8, Go reiterated his support and requested to become a co-author of the new version of the measure.

"I would like to reiterate my support for the passage of this measure for the benefit and interest of our less fortunate coconut farmers. I would like also to request that I will be a co-author of this measure," Go said.

In his interpellation with Senator Cynthia Villar who sponsored the measure, Go asked his fellow senator how many coconut farmers are set to benefit from the Coco Levy Fund.

"How will we ensure that the benefits of coco levy fund will redound to our less fortunate farmers? Importante masiguro natin na ang mga naghihirap na magsasaka ang makikinabang," added Go.

Villar responded, saying that the latest figure in 2017 is 2.4 million. She added that the intended beneficiaries came from 67 coconut producing provinces, five cities and 1,346 towns in the Philippines.

"There are only 1,550 towns in the Philippines, they come from 1,346 towns in the Philippines. And 67 provinces, there are only 81 provinces and they come from 67 provinces. And 65% of them are coming from Mindanao, and 35 (%) is divided between Visayas and Luzon," Villar said.

Go then asked Villar if the initial funding in the current measure is enough to be able to uplift less fortunate coconut farmers. Villar replied, saying that the initial funding was limited to P5 billion to prove that the Philippine Coconut Authority can "manage to implement the program."

"When we allotted P10 billion, it is one reason for the (earlier) veto. Because they said that P10 billion, the PCA will not be able to implement a P10-billion program so we limit it right now in the beginning at P5 billion," Villar explained.

"Sinabi ko nga na hindi naman natin sinabing P5 billion. Minimum of P5 billion just to show that after one year we can prove that we can really manage to implement the program and maybe bring it up in the coming years. And 'yung P5 billion na 'yun nakalista so that they will not say that PCA will not be able to do it, 'yung iba na kaya namang gawin ng ibang department, we will give to other departments," she added.

Duterte vetoed an earlier version of the bill, citing the lack of "vital safeguards" in a letter addressed to Congress.

In the same letter, it explained that establishing an "effectively perpetual" trust fund would violate Article IV Section 29(3) of the 1987 Constitution. According to the section, money collected from tax levied for a special purpose shall be treated as a special fund and paid out for such purpose only.

In the new bill, the management and disbursement of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund will be implemented by the PCA based on the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan and as approved by the President of the Philippines.

The said plan will also lay out the rehabilitation of the industry in the next 99 years, the suggested lifespan of the Trust Fund.

The Trust Fund seeks to establish facilities for the coconut industry and empower coconut farmers' cooperatives and organizations. It will also be utilized for farm improvement, scholarship grants, and health and medical programs for members of the industry.

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