Press Release
September 16, 2020

Poe: Ensure Legitimate Small Farmers' Stake in Coco Levy Body

Sen. Grace Poe said legitimate small coconut farmers should have guaranteed representation in the body that will be created to manage the multi-billion coco levy funds under the bill that is now being deliberated in plenary.

The senator said this would ensure that small farmers will have a significant voice in the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board that would decide on how the funds would be used to benefit the coconut industry and the growers long deprived of the money that rightfully belongs to them.

"Can we have some sort of a provision, if ever we consider including more farmers to the decision-making body of any group, let's say the Philippine Coconut Authority, that the ones who will be considered as members from the coconut farmers will actually be the farmers who have owned three hectares or less for the past 10 years," Poe said in her interpellation on Senate Bill No. 1396 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act.

"We are proposing that this be incorporated in the law to avoid a scenario where big-time coconut farmers will buy parcels of five-hectare lands and name the title under different persons for the sake of being able to comply with the faux small farmers definition," Poe explained.

The bill, reported in plenary under Committee Report No. 65, pitches for the creation of a Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund to be managed by a board that will craft plans on how to utilize the levy collected from coconut farmers since the 1970s which has now grown to an estimated P105 billion.

The bill was passed in the 17th Congress, but was vetoed by the President, citing the lack of "vital safeguards" which could "disproportionately benefit wealthy coconut farm owners" because the law did not have a limit on the covered land area for entitlement of benefits.

"At the core of this bill are the coconut farmers and their dependents who have long been denied of what rightly belongs to them. We want a legislation that will show true justice at work for our farmers," Poe said.

"Ito ay pera nila kaya sila rin dapat ang may pinakamalaking desisyon kung paano ito gagastusin para sa kanilang kapakanan at sa kabutihan ng industriya," she added.

Upon enactment into law, the bill proposes that the Bureau of Treasury release P5 billion for the Trust Fund and another P5 billion as initial allocation to the PCA.

The PCA will be strengthened to ensure the participation of farmers. Under the proposal, its Board will be composed of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Secretary of the Department of Finance (DOF), Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry; Administrator of the Authority; and three members from the coconut farmers sector representing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, who will be appointed by the President.

The bill also targets to create a Trust Fund Management Committee comprised of representatives from the DOF, DBM, and Department of Justice. The DOF shall be designated as the Fund Manager.

Poe said coconut farmers and their dependents should be able to benefit from the programs to be implemented using the Trust Fund through scholarships, health and medical benefits, training, farm improvement and projects leading to empowerment of farmers' organizations.

"This fund should reach the coconut farmers in need of scholarship for their children, those who get sick and those who need training for livelihood opportunities," she said.

"It is vital that the fund be handled by people with knowledge and competence for the best interest of our coconut farmers," Poe added.

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