ANGELES CITY-. Coconut farmers have expressed elation over the recent Supreme Court decision granting partial entry of judgement for the execution of its ruling on controversial coco levy fund shares in the San Miguel Corporation (SMC).
But they expressed fear that a pending executive order in Malacanang would eventually convert the fund into presidential pork barrel. In a statement yesterday, the movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (Claim), backed by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said it welcomed the High Court’s verdict.
“With the Supreme Court decision granting artial entry of judgment, there are no more legal obstacles on 27 percent shares recovered from Pres. Aquino’s uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.,” the statement said.
But KMP Chair Rafael Mariano noted that “the President remains as the biggest political stumbling block for the immediate and direct return of the funds to its rightful owners.” On the other hand, Claim spokesperson Nestor Villanueva expressed fears that “Pres. Aquino and his coco levy mafia would turn the multi-billion coconut levy funds into a perpetual presidential pork bar-rel.”`
Villanueva said that the draft executive order (EO) allegedly submitted by purported coconut farmers groups to Aquino “is exactly the same EO drafted by the Aquino administration’sMulti-Sectoral Task Force on the Coco Levy Funds furnished to us by the Philippine Coconut Authority last August.”
He said that “nowhere in Aquino’s draft EO is any declaration that the coco levy fund shall be returned and directly used by small coconut farmers.” “Worse, the draft EO will install Aquino as the Chairperson of the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund Coordinating Council,” he added.
“The draft EO only serves landlords and big businesses in the coconut industry and would turn the funds into a Presidential pork barrel,” Villanueva added.
He specifically cited Section 3 of the proposed EO on the purpose of the trust fund. “It states that the purpose of the fund ‘shall include the financing of programs or assistance for the benefit of the coconut farmers, for increased productivity of the coconut industry, and for development of coconut-based enterprises and promotion of anti- poverty programs.’
” He also cited Section 9 on the use and disposition of the trust income, stating that. “The Council, on an annual basis, shall determine and establish an amount comprising the Trust Income. After such determination, the Council shall determine the utilization of the Trust Income and recommend such to the President for his approval.”
The KMP and Claim reiterated calls for the approval of a legislative measure, House Bill 1327 or the proposed creation of the “Genuine mall Coconut Farmers Fund” as authored by Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap.
The groups said thatunder HB 1327, small coconut farmers will be he primary beneficiaries of the fund “in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits, and educational assistanceincluding scholarships, among others.”
“Cash distribution will be in the form of social benefits. This is not a dole-out and a far cry from the corruption-ridden conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration,” Villanueva said.
He noted that under HB 1327, “socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall primarily focus on livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to mall 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 coconutand improvement of local coconut production; and programs that would provide loan facilities for mall coconut farmers.”
“All coco levy funds acquired assets, investments, and corporation shall be turned over to the Small Coconut Farmers Council. The SCFC shall directly manage the operations of the CIIF-Oil ills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, and other corporations acquired through the coco levy funds for the benefit of small coconut farmers,” he added.